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ASTAKHOVA, AKSIiNYA. Wife of Stepan. 

BUNCHUK, ILYA. A Cossack revolutionary. 

FOMIN, YAKOV YEFIMOVICH. A Cossack command- 
er, f.t first a Red, tlien leader of a White bandit 

KALMYKOV, White Guard officer. 

KAPARlN. Captain. Red officer. Afterwards Fomin's 
chief of staff. 

Chief of staff to Grigory Melekhov. 


father of Natalya Melekhova. 


of Miron and Marya Korshunov. 

ter of Miron and Marya. 

KOSHEVOI, MIKHAIL (Misha). A Red Cossack. 


KRIVOSHLYKOV. A Cossack revolutionary. 

KUDINOV. Commander of Don Cossack insurgent 


Nikolai Listnitsky, a Wliite officer. 



elder son, a Cossack officer. 

Pantelei's younger son, a Cossack officer, com- 
mander of Cossack insurgent division. 

nya). Pantelei's daughter. 

MELEKHOVA, DARYA. Wife of Pyotr Melekhov. 

MELEKHOVA, NATALYA, Wife of Grigory Melekhov; 

MELEKHOVA, POLYA (Polyushka). Daughter of Gri- 
gory and Natalya. 

MELEKHOV, MISHATKA. Son of Grigory and Na- 

mill-owner in the village of Tatarsky. 

gei's daughter. 

PODTYOLKOV. A Cossack revolutionary. Commander 
of Red Cossack forces. 

POGUDKO, ANNA. Machine-gunner in Bunchuk's 

sacks, brothers. 


TIMOFEI, "Knave." Scalesman at Mokhov's mill. 


ZYKOV, PROKHOR. A Cossack, orderly to Grigory 






M O C K B A 











Not by the plough is our glorious earth furrowed. . , . 

Our earth is turrowed by horses' hoots. 

And sown is our earth with the heads of Cossacks. 

Fair is our quiet Don with young widows. 

Our father, the quiet Don, blossoms with orphans. 

And the waves of the quiet Don are filled 

with fathers' and mothers' tears. 

Oh thou, our father, the quiet Don! 

Oh why dost thou, our quiet Don, so sludgy flow? 

How should I, the quiet Don, but sludgy Row! 

From my depths the cold springs beat. 

Amid me, the quiet Don, the lohite fish leap. 

Old Cossack Songs. 



he Melekhov farm was 
at the very end of the 
village. The gate of the 
cattle-yard opened northward towards the Don, 
A steep, fifty-foot slope between chalky, moss- 
grown banks, and there was the shore. A pearly 
drift of mussel-shells, a grey, broken edging 
of wave-kissed shingle, and then-the steel-blue, 
rippling surface of the Don, seething in the 
wind. To the east, beyond the willow-wattle 
fences of threshing-floors-the Hetman's high- 
way, grizzled wormwood scrub, the hardy 
greyish-brown, hoof-trodden plantain, a cross 
standing at the fork of the road, and then the 
steppe, enveloped in a shifting haze. To the 
south, a chalky ridge of hills. To the west, the 
street, crossing the square and nmning towards 
the leas. 

The Cossack Prokofy Melekhov returned to 
the village during the last war but one with 


Turkey, He brought back a wife-a little woman 
wrapped from head to foot in a shawl. She kept 
her face covered, and rarely revealed her wild, 
yearning eyes. The silken shawl bore the scent 
of strange, aromatic perfumes; its rainbow-hued 
patterns aroused the envy of the Cossack wom- 
en. The captive Turkish woman kept aloof 
from Prokofy's relations, and before long old 
Melekhov gave his son his portion. All his life 
the old man refused to set foot inside his son's 
house; he never got over the disgrace. 

Prokofy speedily made shift for himself; car- 
penters built him a house, he himself fenced in 
the cattle-yard, and in the early autumn he took 
his bowed foreign wife to her new home. He 
walked with her through the village, behind 
the cart laden with their worldly goods. Every- 
body, from the oldest to the youngest, rushed 
into the street. The men laughed discreetly into 
their beards, the women passed vociferous re- 
marks to one another, a swarm of unwashed 
Cossack children shouted catcalls after Prokofy. 
But, with overcoat unbuttoned, he walked slowly 
along, as though following a freshly-ploughed 
furrow, squeezing his wife's fragile wrist in his 
own enormous, black palm, and holding his 
head with its straw-white mat of curls high in 
defiance. Only the wens below his cheek-bones 


swelled and quivered, and the sweat stood out 
between his stony brows. 

Thenceforth he was rarely seen in the village, 
and never even attended the Cossack gather- 
ings. He lived a secluded life in his solitary 
house by the Don. Strange stories were told of 
him in the village. The boys who pastured the 
calves beyond the meadow-road declared that 
of an evening, as the light was dying, they had 
seen Prokofy carrying his wife in his arms 
right as far as the Tatar burial mound. He 
would set her down, with her back to an an- 
cient, weather-beaten, porous rock, on the crest 
of the mound, sit down at her side, and they 
would gaze fixedly across the steppe. They 
would gaze until the sunset had faded, and 
then Prokofy would wrap his wife in his sheep- 
skin and carry her back home. The village was 
lost in conjecture, seeking an explanation for 
such astonishing behaviour. The women gos- 
siped so much that they had not even time to 
search each other's heads for lice. Rumour was 
rife about Prokofy's wife also; some declared 
that she was of entrancing beauty; others main- 
tained the contrary. The matter was settled when 
one of the most ^venturesome of the women, the 
soldier's wife Mavra, ran along to Prokofy's 
house on the pretext of getting some leaven; 
Prokofy went down into the cellar for the 


leaven, and Mavra had time to discover thai 
Prokofy's Turkish conquest was a perfect fright. 

A few minutes later Mavra, her face flushed 
and her kerchief awry, was entertaining a crowd 
of women in a by-lane: 

"And what could he have seen in her, my 
dears? If she'd only been a woman now, but a 
creature like her! Our girls are far better 
covered! Why, you could pull her apart like a 
wasp. And those great big black eyes, she 
flashes them like Satan, God forgive me. She 
must be near her time, God's truth." 

"Near her time?" the women marvelled. 

"I wasn't bom yesterday! I've reared three 

"But what's her face like?" 

"Her face? Yellow. No light in her eyes- 
doesn't find life in a strange land to her fancy, I 
should say. And what's more, girls, she wears 
. , . Prokofy's trousers!" 

"No!" the women drew in their breath to- 

"I saw them myself; she wears trousers, only 
without stripes. It must be his everyday trou- 
sers she has. She wears a long shift, and under- 
neath you can see the trousers stuffed into socks. 
When I saw them my blood ran cold." 

The whisper went round the village that Pro- 
kofy's wife was a witch. Astakhov's daughter- 


in^aw (the Astakhovs were Prokofy's nearest 
neighbours) swore that on the second day of 
Trinity, before dawn, she had seen Prokofy's 
wife, barefoot, her hair uncovered, milking the 
Astakhovs' cow. Since then its udder had with- 
ered to the size of a child's fist, the cow had 
lost its milk and died soon after. 

That year there was an unusual dying-off of 
cattle. By the shallows of the Don fresh car- 
casses of cows and young bulls appeared on the 
sandy shore every day. Then the horses v/ere 
affected. The droves grazing on the village pas- 
ture-lands melted away. And through the lanes 
and streets of the village crept an evil rumour. 

The Cossacks held a meeting and went to Pro- 
kofy. He came out on tlie steps of his house 
and bowed. 

"What can I do for you, worthy elders?" 

Dumbly silent, the crowd drew nearer to the 
steps. One drunken old man was the first to cry: 

"Drag your witch out here! We're going to 
try her. . . ." 

Prokofy flung himself back into the house, 
but they caught him in the passage. A burly 
Cossack, nicknamed Lushnya, knocked his head 
against the wall and told him: 

"Don't make a row, there's no need for you to 
shout. We shan't touch you, but we're going to 
trample your wife into the ground. Better to de- 


stroy her than have all the village die for want 
of cattle. But don't you make a row, or I'll 
smash the wall in with your head!" 

"Drag the bitch out into the yard!" came a 
roar from the steps. A regimental comrade of 
Prokofy's wound the Turkish woman's hair 
around one hand, clamped his other hand over 
her screaming mouth, dragged her at a run across 
the porch and flung her under the feet of the 
crowd. A thin shriek rose above the howl of 
voices. Prokofy flung off half a dozen Cossacks, 
burst into the house, and snatched a sabre from 
the wall. Jostling against one another, the Cos- 
sacks rushed out of the house. Swinging the 
gleaming, whistling sabre around his head, 
Prokofy ran down the steps. The crowd drew 
back and scattered over the yard. 

Lushnya was heavy on his feet, and by the 
threshing-floor Prokofy caught up with hiin; 
with a diagonal sweep down across the left 
shoulder from behind, he clave the Cossack's 
body to the belt. The crowd, who had been tear- 
ing stakes out of the fence, fell back, across the 
threshing-floor into the steppe. 

Half an hour later the Cossacks ventured to 
approach Prokofy's farm again. Two of them 
stepped cautiously into the passaae, O'l the 
kitchen threshold, in a pool of bloci, her head 
flung back awkwardly, lay Prokofy . wif^; her 


lips were writhing tormentedly, her gnawed 
tongue protruded. Prokofy, with shaking head 
and glassy stare, was wrapping a squealing 
little ball-the prematurely-born infant-in a 

Prokofy's wife died the same evening. His old 
mother had compassion on the child and took 
charge of it. They plastered it with bran-mash, 
fed it with mare's milk, and, after a month, as- 
sured that the swarthy, Turkish-looking boy 
would survive, they carried him to church and 
christened him. They named him Pantelei after 
his grandfather. Prokofy came back from penal 
servitude twelve years later. With his clipped, 
ruddy beard streaked with grey and his Russian 
clothing, he did not look like a Cossack. He took 
his son and returned to his farm. 

Pantelei grew up swarthy, and ungovernable. 
In face and figure he was like his mother. Pro- 
kofy married him to the daughter of a Cossack 

From then on Turkish blood began to mingle 
with that of the Cossack, And that was how 
the hook-nosed, savagely handsome Cossack 
family of Melekhovs, nicknamed "Turks," 
came into the village. 

When his father died Pantelei took over the 
farm; he had the house rethatched, added an 
acre of common land to the farmyard, built new 

2—1933 17 

sheds, and a barn with a sheet-iron roof. He or- 
dered the tinsmith to cut a couple of weather- 
cocks out of the scrap iron, and when these 
were set up on the roof of the barn they bright- 
ened the Melekhov farmyard with their care- 
free air, giving it a self-satisfied and prosperous 

Under the weight of the passing years Pante- 
lei Prokofyevich grew gnarled and craggy; he 
broadened and acquired a stoop, but still looked 
a well-built old man. He was dry of bone, and 
lame (in his youth he had broken his leg while 
hurdling at an Imperial Review of troops), he 
wore a silver half-moon ear-ring in his left ear, 
and his beard and hair retained their vivid ra- 
ven hue until old age. When angry, he complete- 
ly lost control of himself and undoubtedly this 
had prematurely aged his buxom wife, whose 
face, once beautiful, was now a perfect spider- 
web of furrows. 

Pyotr, his elder, married son, took after his 
mother: stocky and snub-nosed, a luxuriant 
shock of corn-coloured hair, hazel eyes. But the 
younger, Grigory, was like his father: half a 
head taller than Pyotr, some six years younger, 
the same pendulous hawk nose as his father's, 
the whites of his burning eyes bluish in their 
slightly oblique slits; brown, ruddy skin drawn 
tight over angular cheek-bones. Grigory stooped 


slightly, just like his father; even in his smile 
there was a similar, rather savage quality. 

Dunya-her father's favourite-a lanky large- 
eyed lass, and Pyotr's wife, Darya, with her 
small child, completed the Melekhov household. 


Here and there stars still hovered in the 
ashen, early morning sky. The wind blew from 
under a bank of cloud. A mist rolled high over 
the Don, piling against the slope of a chalky 
hill, and creeping into the gullies like a grey, 
headless serpent. The left bank of the river, the 
sands, the wooded backwaters, the reedy 
marshes, the dewy trees, flamed in the cold, 
ecstatic light of dawn. Below the horizon the 
sun smouldered, and rose not. 

In the Melekhov house Pantelei Prokofyevich 
was the first to awake. Buttoning the collar of 
his embroidered shirt, he walked out on to the 
steps. The grassy yaid was spread with a dewy 
silver. He let the cattle out into the street. Darya 
ran past in her shift to milk the cows. The dew 
sprinkled over the calves of her bare white legs, 
and she left a smoking, flattened trail behind 
her over the grass of the yard. Pantelei Proko- 
fyevich stood for a moment watching the grass 

2* 19 

rise from the pressure of Darya's feet then 
lurned back into the best room. 

On the sill of the wide-open window lay the 
dead rose petals of the cherry-trees blossoming 
in the front garden. Grigory lay asleep face 
downward, one arm flung out sideways. 

"Grigory, coming fishing?" 

"What?" Grigory asked in a whisper, drop- 
ping his legs off the bed. 

"Come out and fish till sunrise." 

Breathing heavily through his nose, Grigory 
pulled his everyday trousers down from a peg, 
drew them on, tucked the legs into his white 
woollen socks, and slowly put on his sandals, 
straightening out the trodden-down heel. 

"But has Mother boiled the bait?" he asked 
hoarsely, as he followed his father into the 

"Yes. Go to the boat. I'll come in a minute." 

The old man poured the strong-smelling, 
boiled rye into a jug, carefully swept up the 
fallen grains into his palm, and limped down 
to the beach. He found his son sitting hunched 
in the boat. 

"Where shall we go?" 

"To the Black Bank. We'll try around the log 
where we were sitting the other day." 

Its stern scraping the ground, the boat broke 
away from the shore and settled into the water. 


The current carried it off, rocking it and trying 
to turn it broadside on. Grigory steered with 
the oar, but did not row. 

"Why aren't you rowing?" 

"Let's get out into midstream first." 

Cutting across the swift mainstream current, 
the boat moved towards the left bank. The crow- 
ing of the village cocks rang out after them 
across the water. Its side scraping the black, 
craggy bank rising high above the river, the 
boat slid into the pool below. Some forty feet 
from the bank the twisted branches of a sunken 
elm emerged from the water. Around it turbu- 
lent flecks of foam eddied and swirled. 

"Get the line ready while I scatter the bait," 
Pantelei whispered. He thrust his hand into the 
steaming mouth of the jug. The rye scattered 
audibly over the water, like a whispered 
"Sh-sh." Grigory threaded swollen grains on a 
hook, and smiled. 

"Come on, you fish! Little ones and big ones 

The line fell in spirals into the water and taut- 
ened, then slackened again. Grigory set his foot 
on the end of the rod and fumbled cautiously 
for his pouch. 

"We'll have no luck today. Father. The moon 
is on the wane." 

"Bring any matches?" 



"Give me a light." 

The old man began to smoke, and glanced at 
the sun, stranded beyond the elm. 

"You can't tell when a carp will bite/' he re- 
plied. "Sometimes he will when the moon is 

"Looks as if the small fish are nipping the 
bait," Grigory sighed. 

The water slapped noisily against the sides of 
the boat, and a four-foot carp, gleaming as 
though cast from ruddy copper, leaped upward 
with a groan, threshing the water with its broad, 
curving tail. Big drops of spray scattered over 
the boat. 

"Wait now!" Pantelei wiped his wet beard 
with his sleeve. ' 

Near the sunken tree, among the branching, 
naked boughs, two carp leaped simultaneously; 
a third, smaller, writhed in the air, and flapped 
stubbornly close to the bank. 

Grigory impatiently chewed the wet end of 
his cigarette. The misty sun was half up. Pan- 
telei scattered the rest of the bait, and, glumly 
pursing his lips, gazed stolidly at the motion- 
less end of the rod. 

Grigory spat out the stub of his cigarette, 
watching its rapid flight angrily. Inwardly he 
was cursing his father for waking him so early. 


Smoking on an empty stomach had made his 
mouth reek like burnt bristles. He was about to 
bend and scoop up some water in his palm, but 
at that moment the end of the rod jerked feebly 
and began to sink. 

"Hook him!" the old man breathed. 

Grigory started up and grabbed the rod, but 
it bent in an arc from his hand, and the end 
plunged into the water. 

"Hold him!" Pantelei groaned, as he pushed 
the boat off from the bank. 

Grigory attempted to lift the rod, but the fish 
was too strong and the stout line snapped with 
a dry crack. Grigory staggered and almost 

"Strong as a bull!" his father whispered, try- 
ing to jab a hook into some fresh bait but miss- 
ing it. With an excited laugh Grigory fastened 
a new line to the rod, and made a cast. Hardly 
had the lead touched the bottom when the end 
of the rod bent. 

"That's him, the devil," Grigory grunted, 
with difficulty holding in the fish, which was 
making for midstrccim. 

The line cut the water with a loud swish, rais- 
ing a sloping, greenish rampart behind it. Pan- 
telei fumbled with the bailer handle in his 
stumpy fingers. 

"Take care he doesn't snap the line." 


"Don't worry," 

A great red and yellow carp rose to the sur- 
face, lashed the water into foam, and dived back 
into the depths. 

"He's pulling my arm off! No, you don't!" 

"Hold him, Grisha!" 

"I am holding him!" 

"Don't let him get under the boat!" 

Taking breath, Grigory drew the played-out 
carp towards the boat. The old man thrust out 
the bailer, but with its last strength the carp 
again plunged into the depths. 

"Get his head up! Make him swallow some 
air, that'll quiet him!" Pantelei ordered. 

Once more Grigory drew the exhausted fish 
towards the boat. It floated open-mouthed with 
its nose against the rough gunwale, its orange- 
golden fins flickering. 

"He's finished!" Pantelei croaked, lifting the 
fish in the bailer. 

They sat on for another half hour. The carp 
stopped leaping. 

"Wind in the line. We've had our catch for 
today!" the old man said at last. 

Grigory pushed off from the bank. As he 
rowed he saw from his father's face that he 
wanted to say something, but Pantelei sat si- 
lently gazing at the houses of the village scat- 
tered under the hill. 


"Look here, Grigory . . ." he began uncertain- 
ly, pulling at the knot of the sack under his feet. 
"I've noticed that you and Aksinya Astakho- 
va. . . ." 

Grigory flushed violently, and turned away. 
His shirt collar cut into his muscular, sunburnt 
neck, pressing out a white band in the flesh. 

"You watch out, young fellow," the old man 
continued, now roughly and angrily, "or I'll be 
having another kind of talk with you. Stepan's 
our neighbour, and I won't have any mucking 
about with his woman. That kind of thing can 
lead to mischief, and I warn you beforehand, if 
I see you at it I'll flay the hide off you!" 

Pantelei clenched his gnarled fist, and with 
narrowed eyes watched the blood ebbing from 
his son's face. 

"It's all lies!" Grigory muttered, and gazed 
straight at the bluish bridge of his father's nose. 

"You keep quiet." 

"People like to talk-" 

"Hold your tongue, you son of a bitch!" 

Grigory bent to the oars. The boat leapt for- 
ward. The bubbling water danced away from 
the stern in little scrolls. 

They remained silent until, as they were ap- 
proaching the shore, his father reminded him: 

"Mind what I've said, or from now on I'll 


stop your going out at night. You won't stir a 
step outside the yard!" 

Grigory made no answer. As he beached the 
boat he asked: 

"Shall I give the fish to the women?" 

"Go and sell it," the old man said more gen- 
tly. "You can have the money for tobacco." 

Biting his lips, Grigory followed his father. 
"Try it. Dad! I'm going out tonight even if you 
hobble my feet!" he thought, his eyes boring 
fiercely into the back of the old man's head. 

When he got home Grigory carefully washed 
the sand off the fish and fixed a twig through 
its gills. 

At the farm gate he ran into his old friend 
Mitka Korshunov. Mitka was strolling along, 
toying with the end of his silver-studded belt. 
His round, yellow eyes glistened impudently in 
their narrow slits. Mitka's pupils were long, like 
a cat's, making his glance swift and elusive. 

"Where are you off to with the fish?" 

"We caught it today. I'm going to sell it." 

"To Mokhov?" 


Mitka estimated the weight of the fish with a 

"Fifteen pounds?" 

"Fifteen and a half. We weighed it on the 


"Take me with you. I'll do the bargaining." 

"Come on." 

"And what do I get?" 

"You needn't fear. We shan't quarrel over 

Church was over, and the villagers were fill- 
ing the streets. The three Shamil brothers 
came striding down the road side by side. The 
eldest, one-armed Alexei, was in the middle. The 
tight collar of his army tunic held his sinewy 
neck erect, his thin, curly, pointed little beard 
twisted provokingly sideways, his left eye 
winked nervously. His carbine had exploded in 
his hands at the shooting range many years 
previously, and a piece of the flying iron had 
ploughed into his cheek. Now his left eye winked 
in season and out of season, and a blue scar ran 
across his cheek, burying itself in his tow-like 
hair. His left arm had been torn off at the el- 
bow, but Alexei was a past master at rolling a 
cigarette with one hand. He would press his 
pouch against his chest, tear off the right quan- 
tity of paper with his teeth, bend it into a 
trough-shape, rake up the tobacco, roll the cig- 
arette and almost before you realized what he 
was doing, he would be asking you for a light. 

Although he was one-armed he was the finest 
fighter in the village. His fist was not particular- 
ly large as fists go-about the size of a calabash 


-but he had once happened to get annoyed with 
his bullock when ploughing, and being without 
his whip, gave it a blow with his fist that 
stretched the bullock out over the furrows, 
blood streaming from its ears. And it hardly 
recovered. The other brothers, Martin and 
Prokhor, resembled Alexei down to the last 
detail. They were just as stocky and broad- 
shouldered, only each had two arms. 

Grigory greeted the Shamils, but Mitka 
walked on, turning his head aside sharply. At 
the fisticuffs during Shrovetide, Alexei Shamil 
had shown no regard for Mitka's youthful teeth. 
With a powerful swing, he had struck him in 
the mouth, and Mitka had spat out two good 
teeth on the grey-blue ice, scarred by the tram- 
pling of iron-shod heels. 

As he came up to them, Alexei winked five 

"Selling your load?" 

"Want to buy it?" 

"How much?" 

"A couple of bullocks, and a wife thrown in." 

Screwing up his eyes, Alexei jerked the stump 
of his arm. 

"You're a card! Haw-haw! A wife thrown in! 
Will you take the brats, too?" 

"Leave yourself some for breeding, or the 
Shamils will die out!" Grigory grinned. 


In the square the villagers were gathered 
around the fence of the church. The church 
warden was holding a goose above his head 
and shouting: "Going for fifty kopecks. Any 
more offers?" 

The goose craned its neck and peered round, 
its beady eye squinting contemptuously. 

In the middle of a ring of people a grizzled 
old man, his chest covered with crosses and 
medals, stood brandishing his arms. 

"Old Grishaka is telling one of his tales about 
the Turkish war," Mitka said, nodding towards 
the ring. "Let's go and listen." 

"While we're listening to him the carp will 
start stinking and swell." 

"If it swells it'll weigh more." 

In the square beyond the firecart shed rose 
the green roof of the Mokhov's house. Passing 
the outhouse, Grigory spat and held his nose. 
From behind a barrel, an old man emerged, but- 
toning up his trousers, and holding his belt in 
his teeth. 

"Hard pressed?" asked Mitka ironically. 

The old man buttoned up the last button, and 
took the belt out of his mouth. 

"What's it got to do with you?" 

"Your nose ought to be stuck in it, or your 
beard; so that your old woman wouldn't be able 
to wash it off in a week." 


"I'll stick you in it," said the old man, offend- 

Mitka screwed up his cat's eyes in the sun's 

"Aren't you touchy!" 

"Get out, you son of a bitch. Why are you 
bothering me? Do you want a taste of my belt?" 

Laughing quietly Grigory approached the 
steps. The balustrade was richly fretted with 
wild vine. The steps were speckled with lazy 

"See how some folk live, Mitka!" 

"Even the door-handle's got gold on it!" 
Mitka sniffed as he opened the door leading to 
the verandah. "Imagine that old fellow getting 
in here. . . ." 

"Who's there?" someone called from the other 
side of the door. 

Grigory entered shyly. The carp's tail trailed 
over the painted floor-boards. 

"Whom do you want?" 

A girl was sitting in a wicker rocking-chair, 
a dish of strawberries in her hand. Grigory 
stared silently at the full, rosy, heart-shaped 
lips embracing a berry. With her head on one 
side the girl looked the lads up and down. 

Mitka came to Grigory's rescue. He coughed. 

"Want to buy some fish?" 

"Fish? I'll go and ask." 


She rocked the chair upright, and rising pad- 
ded away in her embroidered slippers. The sun 
shone through her white dress, and Mitka saw 
the dim outline of full legs and the broad, bil- 
lowing lace of her underskirt. He was aston- 
ished at the satiny whiteness of her bare calves; 
only on the small round heels was the skin 
milkily yellow. 

"Look, Grisha, what a dress ! Like glass ! You 
can see everything through it," he said, nudging 

The girl came back through the door leading 
to the corridor, and sat down gently on the 

"Go into the kitchen!" 

Grigory tiptoed into the house. When he had 
gone Mitka stood blinking at the white thread 
of the parting that divided the girl's hair into 
two golden half-circles. She studied him with 
mischievous, restless eyes. 

"Are you from the village?" 


"Whose son are you?" 


"And what's your name?" 


She examined her rosy nails attentively, and 
with a swift movement tucked up her legs. 

"Which of you caught the fish?" 


"My friend Grigory." 

"And do you fish, too?" 

"When I feel like it." 

"With hook and line?" 


"I'd like to go fishing some time," she said, 
after a pause. 

"All right, I'll take you if you want to." 

"Really? How can we arrange it?" 

"You'll have to get up very early." 

"I'll get up, only you'll have to wake me." 

"I can do that. But how about your father?" 

"What about my father?" 

Mitka laughed. "He might take me for a thief 
and set the dogs on me." 

"Nonsense! I sleep alone in the corner 
room. That's the window." She pointed. "If 
you come for me, knock at the window and 
I'll get up," 

The sound of Grigory's timid voice, and the 
thick, oily tones of the cook came intermittently 
from the kitchen. Mitka was silent, fingering 
the tarnished silver of his belt. 

"Are you married?" she asked hiding a smile. 


"Oh, I'm just curious." 

"No, I'm single." 

Mitka suddenly blushed, and she, smiling 
coquettishly and playing with a twig from the 


hot-house strawberries scattered over the floor, 

"And do the girls like you, Mitka?" 

"Some do, some don't." 

"Really, , . . And why have you got eyes like 
a cat?" 

"A cat?" Mitka was now completely abashed. 

"Yes, that's just it, they're cat's eyes." 

"Must have got them from my mother. I can't 
help it." 

"And why don't they marry you off, Mitka?" 

Mitka recovered from his momentary con- 
fusion, and sensing the hidden sneer in her 
words, let a glitter appear in the yellow of 
his eyes. 

"The cock must grow before it finds a hen." 

She raised her eyebrows in astonishment, 
flushed, and rose from her seat. There was a 
sound of footsteps ascending the steps from the 
street. Her fleeting smile lashed Mitka like a 

Shuffling softly in his capacious kid boots, the 
master of the house, Sergei Platonovich Mo- 
khov, carried his corpulent body with dignity 
past Mitka. 

"Want me?" he asked as he passed, without 
turning his head. 

"They've brought some fish. Papa." 

Grigory appeared without his carp, 

3—1933 33 


The first cock had crowed when Grigory re- 
turned from his evening out. From the porch 
came the scent of sour hops, and the spicy per- 
fume of stitchwort. 

He tiptoed into the room, undressed, carefully 
hung up his Sunday trousers, crossed himself 
and lay down. There was a golden pool of 
moonlight on the floor, criss-crossed by the 
shadow of the window-frame. In the corner the 
silver of the icons gleamed dully under em- 
broidered towels, from the shelf over the bed 
came the droning hum of agitated flies. 

He would have fallen asleep, but in the 
kitchen his brother's child started to cry. The 
cradle creaked like an ungreased cartwheel. He 
heard his brother's wife Darya mutter in a 
sleepy voice: "Go to sleep, you little brat! You 
don't give me a moment's peace!" And she be- 
gan crooning softly to the child: 

Oh, where have you been? 
I've been watching the horses. 
And luhat did you see? 
A horse luith a saddle 
All fringed with gold. . . . 

As he dozed off with the steady, soothing 
creak in his ears, Grigory remembered: "Tomor- 
row Pyotr goes off to the camp. Darya will be 


left with the baby. . . . We'll have to do the mow- 
ing without him." 

He buried his head in his hot pillow, but the 
chant seeped persistently into his ears: 

And where is your horse? 
Outside the gate. 
And where is the gate? 
Swept away by the flood. 

He was aroused from sleep by lusty neigh- 
ing. By its tone he recognized Pyotr's army 
horse. His sleep-numbed fingers were slow in 
buttoning up his shirt, and he almost dropped 
off again under the flowing rhythm of Darya's 

And where are the geese? 

They've gone into the reeds. 

And where are the reeds? 

The girls have mown them. 

And where are the girls? 

The girls have taken husbands. 

And where are the Cossacks? 

They've gone to the war. 

Rubbing his eyes, Grigory made his way to 
the stable and led Pyotr's horse out into the 
street. A floating cobweb tickled his face, and 
his drowsiness unexpectedly left him. 

Slanting across the Don lay the wavy never- 
ridden track of the moonlight. Over the river 

3* S5 

hung a mist, and above it, the stars, like sprin- 
kled grain. The horse set its hoofs down cau- 
tiously. The slope to the water was hard going. 
From the farther side of the river came the 
quacking of ducks. A sheat-fish jumped with a 
splash in the muddy shallows by the bank, hunt- 
ing at random for smaller fry. 

Grigory stood a long time by the river. The 
bank exuded a dank and musty rottenness. A 
tiny drop of water fell from the horse's lips. 
There was a light, pleasant void in Grigory' s 
heart, he felt good and free from thought. As 
he walked back, he glanced towards the east, 
where the blue murk was already clearing. 

By the stable he ran into his mother. 

"Is that you, Grisha?" 

"And who do you think it is?" 

"Watered the horse?" 

"Yes," he answered shortly. 

His mother waddled away with an apronful 
of dried dung fuel, her bare withered feet slap- 
ping on the ground. 

"You might go and wake up the Astakhovs. 
Stepan said he would go with our Pyotr." 

The morning rawness set a spring stiffly 
quivering in Grigory. His body tingled with 
prickles. He ran up the three echoing steps 
leading to the Astakhovs' house. The door was 
unlatched. Stepan was asleep on an outspread 


rug in the kitchen, his wife's head resting on 
his arm. 

In the greying dawn light Grigory saw Ak- 
sinya's shift rumpled above her knees, and her 
unashamedly parted legs white as birch bark. 
For a moment he stood gazing, feeling his 
mouth going dry and his head bursting with an 
iron clangour. 

He shifted his eyes stealthily. In a strange, 
hoarse voice he called: 

"Hey! Anyone here? Get up." 

Aksinya gave a sob of waking. 

"Oh, who's that?" She hurriedly began to 
fumble with her shift, drawing it over her legs. 
A little drop of spittle was left on her pillow; 
a woman's sleep is sound at dawn. 

"It's me. Mother sent me to wake you up." 

"We'll be up in a minute. We're sleeping on 
the floor because of the fleas. Stepan, get up, 
d'you hear?" By her voice Grigory guessed that 
she felt embarrassed and he hastened to leave. 

Thirty Cossacks were going from the village 
to the May training camp. Just before seven 
o'clock wagons with tarpaulin covers, Cossacks 
on foot and on horseback, in homespun shirts 
and carrying their equipment, began to stream 
towards the square. 

Pyotr was standing on the steps, hurriedly 
stitching a broken rein. 


Pantelei stamped about round Pyotr's horse, 
pouring oats into the trough. Every now and 
then he shouted: 

"Dunya, have you put the rusks in the sack 
yet? Have you salted the bacon?" 

Dunya, rosy and blooming, flew to and fro 
like a swallow and answered her father's 
shouts with a laugh: 

"You look after your own affairs. Father, and 
I'll pack for Brother so well that nothing will 
budge till he reaches Cherkassk."* 

"Not finished eating yet?" Pyotr asked, nod- 
ding towards the horse. 

"Not yet," his father replied deliberately, 
testing the saddle-cloth with his rough palm. 
One little crumb sticking to the cloth can chafe 
a horse's back into a sore in a single march. 

"When he's done eating, water him. Father." 

"Grisha will take him down to the Don," 

Grigory took the tall, rawboned Don horse 
with a white blaze on its forehead, led it out 
through the gate, and resting his left hand 
lightly on its withers, vaulted on to its back 
and went off at a swinging trot. He tried to 
rein the horse in at the descent to the river, 
but the animal stumbled, quickened its pace, 
and flew down the slope. Leaning back until he 

* Novocherkassk. 


almost lay along the animal's spine, Grigory 
saw a woman with pails going down the hill. 
He turned sharply off the path and dashed into 
the water, leaving a cloud of dust behind him. 

Aksinya came swinging down the slope. 
When still some distance away she shouted to 

"You mad devil! You almost rode me down. 
You wait, I'll tell your father how you ride." 

"Now, neighbour, don't get angry. When 
you've seen your husband off to camp maybe 
I'll be useful on your farm." 

"How the devil could you be useful to me?" 

"You'll be asking me when mowing time 
comes," Grigory laughed. 

Aksinya dexterously drew a full pail of 
water from the river, and pressed her skirt 
between her knees away from the wind. 

"Is your Stepan ready yet?" Grigory asked. 

"What's that to do with you?" 

"What a spitfire! Can't I ask?" 

"He is, what of it?" 

"So you'll be left a grass-widow?" 


The horse raised its lips from the water, and 
stood gazing across the Don, its fore-feet tread- 
ing the stream. Aksinya filled her second pail, 
hoisted the yoke across her shoulders, and 
with a swinging stride set off up the slope. 


Grigory turned the horse and followed her. The 
wind fluttered her skirt and played with the 
fine, fluffy curls on her swarthy neck. Her flat, 
embroidered cap flamed on her heavy knot of 
hair, her rose-coloured shift, gathered into her 
skirt at the waist, clung smoothly to her steep 
back and compact shoulders. As she climbed 
the slope she bent forward, and the hollow be- 
tween her shoulders showed clearly beneath her 
shift. He saw the brownish rings under her 
arms, where her shift was stained with sweat. 
Grigory watched her ever^^ movement. He 
wanted to renew the talk with her. 

"You'll be missing your husband, won't 



Without halting Aksinya turned her head 
and smiled. 

"Of course I shall. Get married yourself," 
she caught her breath and went on jerkily, 
"then you'll know whether you miss your dar- 
ling or not." 

Grigory brought the horse level with her and 
looked into her eyes. 

"But other wives are glad when their hus- 
bands go. Our Darya will grow fat without her 

Aksinya's nostrils quivered and she breathed 

"A husband's not a leech, but he sucks your 


blood all the same." She pushed her hair 
straight. "Shall we be seeing you married 

"I don't know, it depends on Father. After 
my army service, I suppose." 

"You're still young; don't get married." 

"Why not?" 

"It dries you up." She looked up from under 
her brows, and smiled cheerlessly without part- 
ing her lips. For the first time Grigory noticed 
that her lips were shamelessly greedy and rath- 
er swollen. Stranding the horse's mane with his 
fingers, he replied: 

"I don't want to get married. Someone will 
love me without that." 

"Have you noticed anyone, then?" 

"What should I notice? Now you're seeing 
your Stepan off. . .?" 

"Don't try to play about with me!" 

"What will you do about it?" 

"I'll tell Stepan." 

"I'll show your Stepan. . . ." 

"You're so cocksure, mind you don't cry 

"Don't try to scare me, Aksinya!" 

"I'm not trying to scare you. You hang 
around with the girls, let them hem your han- 
kies for you, but keep your eyes off me," 

"I'll look at you all the more now." 


"Well, look then." 

Aksinya gave him a conciliatory smile and 
left the path, trying to pass the horse. Grigory 
turned the animal sideways and blocked the 

"Let me pass, Grisha." | 

"I won't." 

"Don't be a fool. I must see to my husband." 

Grigory smilingly teased the horse, and it 
edged Aksinya towards the bank. 

"Let me pass, you devil! There are some peo- 
ple over there. If they see us what will they 
think?" she muttered. 

She swept a frightened glance around and 
passed by, frowning and without a backward 

Pyotr was saying good-bye to his family on 
the steps. Grigory saddled the horse. His broth- 
er, holding his sabre to his side, hurried 
down the steps and took the reins. Scenting the 
road, the horse fretted and chewed the bit. 
With one foot in the stirrup, Pyotr said to his 
father : 

"Don't overwork the baldheads. Father. In 
the autumn we'll sell them. Grigory will need 
a horse for the army, you know. And don't 
sell the steppe grass; you know yourself what 
hay we're likely to get in the meadow this 


"Well, God be with you. Good luck," the old 
man replied, crossing himself. 

Pyotr swung his firm body into the saddle, 
and adjusted the folds of his shirt in his belt 
at the back. The horse moved towards the gate. 
The sabre swung rhythmically, its pommel 
glittering dully in the sun. 

Darya followed with the child on her arm. 
Wiping her eyes with her sleeve and her nose 
with the corner of her apron, his mother, Ilyi- 
nichna, stood in the middle of the yard. 

"Brother! The pasties! You've forgotten the 
pasties! The potato pasties!" Dunya dashed to 
the gate. 

"What are you bawling for, you fool!" Gri- 
gory snapped irritably. 

"He's left his pasties behind," she moaned, 
leaning against the gate-post, and tears ran 
down her burning cheeks on to her blouse. 

Darya stood gazing under her hand after her 
husband's white shirt through the screen of 
dust. Old Pantelei jerked the rotting gate-post 
and looked at Grigory: 

"Mend the gate, and put a new post in." He 
stood in thought for a moment, then announced 
as if it were news: 

"Pyotr's gone." 

Over the wattle fence, Grigory saw Stepan 
getting ready, Aksinya, dressed up in a green 


woollen skirt, led out his horse. Stepan smiling- 
ly said something to her. Unhurriedly, posses- 
sively, he kissed his wife, and his arm lingered 
long around her shoulder. His hand, darkened 
by sun and toil, looked coal-black against her 
white blouse. He stood with his back to Gri- 
gory; his firm, clean-shaven neck, his broad, 
rather sloping shoulders, and (whenever he bent 
towards his wife) the twisted ends of his light- 
brown moustache were visible across the fence. 

Aksinya laughed at something and shook her 
head. The big black stallion lurched slightly as 
Stepan swung his great weight into the saddle. 
Sitting as though planted in the saddle, Stepan 
rode his black horse at a brisk trot through 
the gate, and Aksinya walked at his side, hold- 
ing the stirrup and looking up lovingly ard 
hungrily, like a dog, into his eyes. 

Grigory watched them to the turn of the 
road with a long unblinking gaze. 


Towards evening a thunderstorm gathered. 
A mass of heavy cloud lay over the village. 
Lashed into fury by the wind, the Don sent 
foaming breakers against its banks. The sky 
flamed with dry lightning, occasional peals of 
thunder shook the earth. A kite circled with 

outspread wings just below the clouds and was 
pursued by croaking ravens. Spreading its cool 
breath, the cloud passed down the Don from 
the west. Beyond the meadows the heavens 
blackened menacingly, the steppe lay in expect- 
ant silence. In the village there was a rattle of 
closing shutters, the old people hurried home 
from vespers crossing themselves. A grey pillar 
of dust whirled over the square, and the heat- 
burdened earth was already beginning to be 
scattered with the first seeds of rain. 

Shaking her braided tresses, Dunya flew 
across the yard, slammed the door of the chick- 
enhouse, and stood in the middle of the yard 
with nostrils distended like a horse at a hurdle. 
In the street the children were prancing about. 
Eight-year-old Mishka, his father's absurdly 
large peaked cap drawn over his eyes, was 
spinning round and chirruping shrilly: 

Rain, rain, rain away. 
We're going ofi for the day. 
To pay God our vow. 
And to Christ to how. 

Dunya enviously watched Mishka's chapped 
bare feet stamping the ground. She, too, want- 
ed to dance in the rain and to get her head 
wet, so that her hair might grow thick and cur- 
ly; she, too, wanted to stand on her hands like 


Mishka's friend in the roadside dust, at the 
risk of falling into the nettles. But her mother 
was watching and angrily moving her lips at 
the window. With a sigh she ran into the house. 
The rain was now falling heavily. A peal of 
thunder broke right over the roof and went 
rolling away across the Don. 

In the porch Pantelei and the perspiring Gri- 
gory were hauling a folded drag-net out of the 

"Raw thread and a pack-needle, quick!" Gri- 
gory called to Dunya. Darya sat down to mend 
the net. Her mother-in-law grumbled as she 
rocked the baby: 

"What else will you take into your head, 
man! Let's go to bed. Kerosene costs more and 
more. What do you think you'll catch now? 
Where the plague are you going? And you'll 
get drowned into the bargain, the terror of the 
Lord is upon us. Just look at the lightning! 
Lord Jesus Christ, Mother of Heaven. . . ." 

For an instant it was dazzlingly blue and si- 
lent in the kitchen; the rain could be heard 
drumming on the shutters. A clap of thunder 
followed. Dunya whimpered and buried her face 
in the net. Darya made the sign of the cross to- 
wards the windows and door. The old woman 
stared with terrible eyes at the cat rubbing it- 
self against her legs: 


"Dunya, chase this d-. Mother of Heaven, 
forgive me my sins. . . . Dunya, put the cat out 
into the yard! Shoo, evil spirit! May you. . . ." 

Dropping the net, Grigory shook with silent 

"Well, what are you fussing about? Enough 
of that!" shouted Pantelei. "Get on with your 
mending, women. I told you the other day to 
see to the net." 

"There's no fish now," his wife ventured. 

"If you don't understand, hold your tongue! 
The sterlet will make for the bank now, they're 
afraid of storms. The water must be muddy by 
now. Dunya, go out and see whether you can 
hear the stream running." 

Dunya edged unwillingly towards the door. 

Old Ilyinichna would not be repressed. 
"Who's going to wade with you? Darya 
mustn't, she'll catch cold in her chest," she 

"Me and Grigory, and for the other net . . . 
we'll call Aksinya and another of the women." 

Dunya ran in breathlessly. Drops of rain 
hung trembling on her lashes. She smelt of the 
dank, black earth. 

"The stream's roaring like anything," she 

"You coming too?" 

"Who else is going?" 


"We'll get some of the women." 

"All right." 

"Put on your coat and run to Aksinya," her 
father told her. "If she'll go, ask her to fetch 
Malashka Frolova, too." 

"That one won't freeze," Grigory said with 
a grin, "she's fat as a hog." 

"Why don't you take some hay, Grisha dear," 
his mother advised. "Stuff some under your 
heart or you'll take a chill inside." 

"Yes, go for some hay, Grigory. The old 
woman's quite right." 

Dunya quickly returned with the women. 
Aksinya, in a blue skirt and a ragged jacket 
belted with rope, looked shorter and thinner. 
Exchanging laughs with Darya, she took off 
her kerchief, wound her hair into a tighter 
knot, and throwing back her head, stared cold- 
ly at Grigory. As the stout Malashka tied up 
her stockings, she said hoarsely: 

"Have you got your sacks? We're sure to 
haul up the fish today." 

They all went into the yard. The rain was 
still falling heavily on the sodden earth, froth- 
ing the puddles and trickling in streams down 
to the Don. 

Grigory led the way down to the river. 

For no reason he suddenly felt very gay. 

"Mind the ditch. Dad." 


"How dark it is!" 

"Hang on to me, Aksinya," Malashka 
laughed hoarsely. 

"Isn't that the landing stage, Grigory?" 

"That's it." 

"Begin from here," Pantelei shouted above 
the roar of the wind. , 

"Can't hear you, uncle," Malashka called 

"Start wading, I'll take the deep side. . . . The 
deep ... I say. Malashka, you deaf devil, where 
are you dragging to? I'll go out into the 
deeps. . . . Grigory, Grisha, let Aksinya take the 

A groaning roar from the Don. The wind was 
tearing the slanting sheet of rain to shreds. 
Feeling the bottom with his feet, Grigory wad- 
ed up to his waist into the water. A clammy 
cold crept into his chest, drawing tightly in a 
ring round his heart. The waves lashed his face 
and tightly screwed-up eyes like a knout. The 
net bellied out and was carried off into the 
deeps. Grigory's feet, in woollen socks, slipped 
over the sandy bottom. The net was being 
dragged out of his hand. Deeper, deeper. A 
sudden drop. His legs were carried away. The 
current snatched him up and bore him into 
midstream. With his right hand he vigorously 
paddled back to the bank. The black, swirling 

4—1933 49 

depths frightened him as never before. His 
feet joyously found the muddy bottom. A fish 
knocked against his knee. 

"Take it deep!" his father's voice came from 
the clinging darkness. 

Again the net heeled over and pulled down 
into the depths. Again the current carried the 
ground away from under his feet, and Grigory 
swam, spitting out water. 

"Aksinya, you all right?" 

"All right, so far." 

"Isn't the rain stopping?" 

"The fine rain is, now we'll get the heavy 

"Talk quietly. If my father hears he'll go for 

"Afraid of your father, huh?" 

For a moment they hauled in silence. 

"Grisha, there's a sunken tree by the bank, I 
think! We must get the net round it." 

A terrible buffet flung Grigory far away 
from her. 

"Ah-ah!" Aksinya screamed somewhere 
near the bank. Terrified, he swam in the direc- 
tion of her call. 


Wind, and the flowing roar of the water, 

"Aksinya!" Grigory shouted again, going 
cold with fear, 


"Hey, Grigory," he heard his father's voice 
from afar. 

He struck out wildly. He felt something 
sticky under his feet, and caught it with his 
hand-it was the net. 

"Grisha, where are you?" he heard Aksinya's 
tearful voice. 

"Why didn't you answer my shout?" he 
bawled angrily, crawling on hands and knees 
up the bank. 

Squatting down on their heels, they disen- 
tangled the net. The moon broke through the 
cracked shell of a cloud. There was a restrained 
mutter of thunder beyond the meadows. The 
earth gleamed with moisture. Washed clean 
by the rain, the sky was stern and clear. 

As he disentangled the net Grigory stared at 
Aksinya. Her face was a chalky white, but her 
red, slightly upturned lips were smiling. 

"The way I was knocked against the bank! I 
nearly went out of my mind. I was scared to 
death. I thought you were drowned." 

Their hands touched. Aksinya tried to push 
hers into the sleeve of his shirt. 

"How warm your arm is," she said plaintive- 
ly, "and I'm frozen!" 

"Look where that bastard got away," Grigo- 
ry showed her a hole about five feet across in 
the middle of the net. 

4* 51 

Someone came running along the bank. Gri- 
gory guessed it was Dunya. He shouted to her: 

"Got the thread?" 

"Yes. What are you sitting here for? Father 
sent me for you to come at once to the point. 
We've caught a sackful of sterlet." Unconcealed 
triumph sounded in her voice. 

With teeth chattering, Aksinya sewed up the 
hole in the net. Then, to get warm, they raced 
to the point. 

Pantelei was rolling a cigarette with scarred 
fingers swollen by the water; jigging about, he 
boasted : 

"The first time, eight fish; but the second 
time . . ." he paused and silently pointed with 
his foot to the sack. Aksinya peeped curiously 
inside: from it came the slithery scraping 
sound of stirring fish. 

"Where were you?" 

"A sheat-fish broke our net." 

"Did you mend it?" 

"Yes, somehow." 

"Well, we'll wade in once more up to our 
"knees, and then home. In you go, Grisha; what 
are you waiting for?" 

Grigory stepped out with numbed legs. Ak- 
sinya was shivering so much that he felt the 
net trembling. 

"Stop shaking!" 


"I wish I could, but I can't catch my breath." 
"Listen! Let's get out, and damn the fish!" 
At that moment a great carp leaped over the 
net. Grigory dragged the net into a tighter 
circle. Aksinya toiled up the bank. The water 
splashed on the sands and slopped back. Fish 
lay quivering in the net. 

"Back through the meadow?" 
"It's nearer through the wood." 
"Hey there, are you coming?" 
"Go on ahead. We'll catch you up. We're 
cleaning the net." 

Frowning, Aksinya wrung out her skirl, 
hoisted the sack of fish over her shoulder and 
set off almost at a trot. Grigory picked up the 
net. They had covered some two himdred yards 
when Aksinya began to groan: 

"I can't go on. My legs are numb." 
"Look, there's an old haystack. Why don't 
you have a warm there." 

"Good! I'll never get home otherwise." 
Grigory turned back the top of the stack and 
dug out a hole. The long-lying hay smelt warm 
and rotten. 
"Crawl into the middle. It's like a stove here." 
She threw down the sack and buried herself 
up to the neck in hay. Shivering with cold, Gri- 
gory lay down at her side. A tender agitating 
scent came from her damp hair. She lay with 


head thrown back, breathing regularly through 
her half-open mouth. 

"Your hair smells like henbane. Do you 
know that white flower?" Grigory whis- 
pered, bending towards her. She was silent. Her 
gaze was misty and distant, fixed on the wan- 
ing, crescent moon. 

Taking his hand out of his pocket, Grigory 
suddenly drew her head towards him. She tore 
herself away fiercely, and raised herself from 
the hay. 

"Let me go!" 

"Keep quiet!" 

"Let go, or I'll shout!" 

"Wait, Aksinya!" 

"Uncle Pantelei!" 

"Have you got lost?" Pantelei's voice sound- 
ed quite close, from behind a clump of haw- 
thorn bushes. Clenching his teeth, Grigory 
jumped out of the stack. 

"What are you shouting for? Are you lost?" 
the old man questioned as he approached. 

Aksinya stood by the haystack adjusting her 
kerchief, steam rising from her clothes. 

"We're not lost, but I'm nearly frozen." 

"Look, woman, there's a haystack, warm 
yourself," the old man told her. 

Aksinya smiled as she stopped to pick up the 


It was some sixty versts to the training camp 
at Setrakov. Pyotr Melekhov and Stepan Asta- 
khov rode in the same wagon. With them were 
three others from their village: Fedot Bodov- 
skov, a young Cossack with a pock-marked Kal- 
myk face, Christonya Tokin, a second-draft re- 
servist in the Ataman's Regiment of Lifeguards, 
and the artilleryman Ivan Tomilin. After the 
first halt for food they harnessed Christonya's 
and Astakhov's horses to the wagon, and the 
other horses were tethered behind. Christonya, 
burly and a bit queer in the head like all the 
men of the Ataman's Regiment, took the reins. 
He sat in front with his back, curved like a 
wheel, blocking out the light from the interior 
of the wagon, and urged on the horses in his 
deep, rumbling bass voice. Pyotr, Stepan and 
Tomilin lay smoking under the tightly-stretched 
tarpaulin cover. Bodovskov walked behind, 
his bandy Kalmyk legs making light of the 
dusty road. 

Christonya's wagon led the way. Behind 
trailed seven or eight others, leading saddled 
and unsaddled horses. The road was noisy with 
laughter, shouts, songs, the snorting of horses, 
and the jingling of empty stirrups. 


Pyotr's head rested on a bag of rusks. He 
lay still, twirling his tawny whiskers. 



"Let's have a song." 

"It's too hot. My throat's dry as a bone!" 

"You won't find any drink round here. So 
don't wait for that!" 

"Well, sing up. Only you're no good at it. 
Your Grisha now, he can sing. His isn't a voice, 
it's a pure silver thread." 

Stepan threw back his head, coughed, and 
began in a low, tuneful voice: 

Oh, a fine glowing sunrise 
Came up early in the sky. 

Tomilin rested his cheek on his palm like 
a woman and picked up the refrain in a thin, 
wailing voice. Smiling, Pyotr watched the little 
knotted veins on his temples turning blue with 
the effort. 

Young was she, the little woman 
That went tripping to the stream. 

Stepan, who was lying with his head towards 
Christonya, turned round on his elbow: 
"Come on, Christonya, join in!" 

And the lad, he guessed her purpose. 
Saddled up his chestnut mare. 


Stepan turned his smiling glance towards 
Pyotr, and Pyotr, flicking the tip of his mous- 
tache out of his mouth, added his voice. Open- 
ing wide his heavily-bearded jaws, Christonya 
roared in a voice that shook the tarpaulin 

Saddled up his chestnut mare 
To catch the little woman. 

Christonya tucked his bare foot under him 
and waited for Stepan to begin again. Closing 
his eyes, his perspiring face in shadow, Stepan 
sang on gently, now dropping his voice to a 
whisper, now making it ring out metallically. 

Let me, let me, little woman. 
Bring my chestnut to the stream. 

And again Christonya's deep booming tones 
drowned the others. Voices from the neighbour- 
ing wagons took up the song. The wheels 
clanked on their iron rims, the horses snorted 
with the dust and the song floated on, strong 
and deep. A white-winged peewit flew up from 
the brown wilted steppe. It flew with a cry to- 
wards a hollow, turning an emerald eye to 
watch the chain of white-covered wagons, the 
horses kicking up clouds of dust with their 
hoofs, the men in white, dusty shirts, walking 
at the edge of the road. And as the peewit 
dropped into the hollow and its black breast 


nestled into the damp grass pressed flat by 
roaming animals, it missed the scene that was 
taking place on the road. The wagons were 
trundling along as before, the sweating horses 
were still loping unwillingly through the dust, 
but now the Cossacks in their dust-grey shirts 
were running from their wagons to the leader, 
milling round it and roaring with laughter. 

Stepan was poised at full height on the wag- 
on, holding the tarpaulin with one hand, beat- 
ing time with the other, and roaring out a 
catchy tune in double-quick time: 

Oh, don't sit by me. 

Oh, don't sit by me. 

Folk will say you're in love with me, 

In love ivith me 

And coming to me. 

In love with me 

And coming to me. 

But I'm. not one oi the common run. . . . 

Dozens of rough voices took up the chorus 
with a roar that flattened the roadside dust: 

But I'm not one oi the common run, 

I'm not one oi the common run. 

I'm brigand born. 

And brigand bred- 

Not one oi the common run. 

And I'm in love with a prince's §Qn, . . . 


Fedot Bodovskov whistled; the horses strained 
at the traces; leaning out of the wagon, 
Pyotr laughed and waved his cap; Stepan, with 
a dazzling smile on his face, impudently swung 
his shoulders; along the road the dust rolled in 
a cloud. Christonya jumped out of the wagon 
in his great long unbelted shirt, his hair mat- 
ted, his face streaming with sweat, and did the 
Cossack dance, whirling round like a fly-wheel, 
frowning and groaning, and leaving the huge 
splayed imprints of his bare feet in the silky- 
grey dust. 


They stopped for the night by a mound with 
a sandy summit. Clouds gathered in the west. 
Rain dripped from their black wings. The 
horses were watered at a pond. Above the dyke 
dismal willows bowed before the wind. In the 
water, covered with stagnant duckweed and 
scaled with miserable little ripples, the light- 
ning was distortedly reflected. The wind crum- 
bled the raindrops sparingly as though scatter- 
ing alms into the earth's swarthy palms. 

The hobbled horses were turned out to graze, 
three men being appointed as guards. The other 
men lit fires and hung pots on the wagon 


Christonya was cooking millet. As he stirred 
it with a spoon, he told a story to the Cossacks 
sitting around: 

"The mound was high, like this one. And I 
says to my now deceased father: 'Won't the 
ataman* give it us for digging up the mound 
without permission'?" 

"What's he blathering about?" asked Stepan, 
as he came back from the horses. He squatted 
down by the fire and flicked an ember on to his 
palm, juggling it about for a long time while 
he lighted a cigarette. 

"I'm telling how I and my father, may his 
soul rest in peace, looked for treasure. It was 
the Merkulov mound. Well, and Father says: 
'Come on, Christonya, we'll dig up the Merku- 
lov mound.' He'd heard from his father that 
treasure was buried in it. You see. Father prom- 
ised God: 'Give me the treasure, and I'll 
build a fine church.' So we agreed and off we 

* Atamans were elected by the Cossacks of tsarist 
Russia for posts of leadership at various levels. The chief 
of the Don Army was called the army ataman, the chief 
of a stanitsa, a Cossack district or district centre, the 
stanitsa ataman. When a Cossack detachment went out on 
a campaign it elected its own "campaign ataman." In a 
broad sense the word meant "chief." When the Don Cos- 
sacks finally lost their independence, the title of Ataman 
of all Cossack Forces became a hereditary title of the 
tsar and, in effect, all Cossack troops were commanded 
by appointed atamans. 


went. It was on common land, so only the ata- 
man could stop us. We arrived late in the after- 
noon. So we waited until nightfall and then 
climbed up on top with shovels. We began to 
dig straight down from its top-knot. We'd dug 
a hole six feet deep; the earth was like stone. 
I was wet through. Father kept on muttering 
prayers, but believe me, brothers, my belly was 
grumbling so much. , . . You know what we eat 
in summer: sour milk and kvass. My father, he 
says: 'Pfooh!' he says, 'Christonya, you're a 
heathen. Here am I praying, and you can't 
hold your food, I can't breathe for the stink. 
Get off the mound, you ... or I'll split your 
head open with the shovel. Your stink's enough 
to make the treasure sink into the ground.' So 
I lay down by the mound, fit to die with my 
belly-ache, and my father-a strong man he 
was-goes on digging alone. And he digs down 
to a stone slab. He calls me. I push a crow-bar 
under it, and lift it up. Believe me, brothers, it 
was a moonlight night, and under this slab was 
such a glitter. . . ." 

"Now you're lying, Christonya," Pyotr broke 
in, smiling and tugging at his whiskers. 

"Who's lying? Go to the devil, and to the 
devil's dam!" ChriiStonya hitched up his sharo- 
vari and glanced round at his audience. "No, 
I'm not lying. It's God's truth! There it shone. 


I look, and it's charcoal. Some forty bushels of 
it. Father says : 'Crawl in, Christonya, and dig it 
up.' So I dug out this rubbish. I went on dig- 
ging till daylight. And in the morning there he 

"Who?" asked Tomilin. 

"Why, the ataman, who else? He happens to 
come driving by. 'Who gave you permission?' 
and all the rest of it. He lays hold of us and 
hauls us off to the stanitsa. We were called 
before the court at Kamenskaya the year before 
last, but Father, he guessed what was coming, 
and managed to die beforehand. We wrote back 
saying he was not among the living." 

Christonya took his pot of boiling millet and 
went to the wagon for spoons. 

"Well, what about your father? He promised 
to build a church; didn't he do it?" Stepan 
asked, when he returned. 

"You're a fool, Stepan. What could he build 
for charcoal?" 

"Once he promised he ought to have done 

"There was no agreement whatever about 
charcoal, and the treasure, . . ." The guffaw that 
went up made the flames of the fire tremble. 
Christonya raised his head from the pot, and 
not understanding what the laughter was about, 
drowned all the rest with his heavy roar. 



Aksinya was seventeen when she was given 
in marriage to Stepan Astakhov. She came from 
the village of Dubrovka, from the sands on the 
other side of the Don. 

About a year before her marriage she was 
ploughing in the steppe eight versts or so from 
the village. In the night her father, a man of 
some fifty years, tied her hands and raped her. 

"I'll kill you if you breathe a word, but if 
you keep quiet I'll buy you a plush jacket and 
gaiters with goloshes. Remember, I'll kill you 
if you . . ." he promised her. 

Aksinya ran back through the night in her 
torn petticoat to the village. She flung herself 
at her mother's feet and sobbed out the whole 
story. Her mother and elder brother harnessed 
horses to the wagon, made Aksinya get in with 
them, and drove to the father. Her brother al- 
most drove the horses to death over the eight 
versts. They found the old man close to the 
field camp. He was lying on his overcoat in a 
drunken sleep with an empty vodka bottle by 
his side. Before Aksinya's eyes her brother un- 
hooked the swingle-tree from the wagon, 
brought him to his feet with a kick, curtly 
asked him a question or two and struck him a 
blow between the eyes with the iron-shod 


swingle-tree. He and his mother went on beat- 
ing him steadily for an hour and a half. The 
ageing mother, who had always been an obe- 
dient wife, frenziedly tore at her unconscious 
husband's hair, the brother used his feet. Ak- 
sinya lay under the wagon, her head covered, 
shaking silently. They carried her father home 
just before dawn. He lay moaning pitifully, his 
eyes wandering around the room, seeking for 
Aksinya, who had hidden herself away. Blooid 
and puss ran from his torn ear on to the pillow. 
Towards evening he died. They told the neigh- 
bours he had fallen from the wagon. 

Within a year match-makers arrived on a 
gaily bedecked wagonette to ask for Aksinya's 
hand. The tall Stepan with his clean-cut neck 
and well-proportioned figure appealed to his 
future bride, and the wedding was fixed for the 

The day was frosty and the ice rang merrily 
on the roads when Aksinya was installed as 
young mistress of the Astakhov household. The 
morning after the festivities her mother-in-law, 
a tall old woman doubled up with some painful 
woman's disease, woke Aksinya, led her into 
the kitchen, and aimlessly shifting things about, 
said to her: 

"Now, dear daughter, we didn't take you for 
making love, nor for you to lie abed. Go and 


milk the cows, and then get some food ready. 
I'm old and sick. You must take over the house- 
hold, it will all fall on you," 

The same day Stepan took his young wife in- 
to the barn and beat her deliberately and ter- 
ribly. He beat her on the belly, the breasts and 
the back, taking care that the marks should not 
be visible to others. After that he neglected her, 
kept company with flighty grass-widows and 
went out almost every night, leaving Aksinya 
locked in the barn or the best room. 

For eighteen months, until there was a child, 
he would not forgive her his disgrace. Then he 
was quieter, but was grudging with caresses 
and rarely spent the night at home. 

The large farm with its numerous cattle burd- 
ened Aksinya with work. Stepan worked half- 
heartedly, and went off to smoke, to play 
cards, to learn the latest news, and Aksinya had 
to do everything. Her mother-in-law was a 
poor help. After bustling around a little she 
would drop on to the bed, and with lips tight- 
drawn and eyes gazing agonizedly at the ceil- 
ing, would lie groaning, rolled into a bundle. 
At such times her face, which was dotted all 
over with great ugly moles, broke out in per- 
spiration and tears slithered one by one down 
her cheeks. Throwing down her work, Aksinya 

5—1933 65 

would hide in a corner and stare at her mother- 
in-law's face in fear and pity. 

The old woman died just before the child 
was born. In the morning Aksinya's labour 
pains began, and about noon, an hour or so be- 
fore the child came into the world, the grand- 
mother dropped dead by the stable door. The 
midwife ran out to warn the tipsy Stepan not 
to go into the bedroom, and saw the old wom- 
an lying with her legs tucked under her. 
After the birth of the child, Aksinya devoted 
herself to her husband, but she had no feel- 
ing for him, only a bitter womanly pity and 
force of habit remained. The child died within 
a year. The old life returned. And when Grisha 
Melekhov crossed Aksinya's path, she realized 
with terror that she was attracted to the gentle, 
swarthy young fellow. He waited on her with a 
persistent expectant love, and it was this per- 
sistence that Aksinya feared in him. She saw 
that he was not afraid of Stepan, she felt that 
he would not hold back because of him, and 
without consciously desiring it, resisting the 
feeling with all her might, she noticed that on 
Sundays and weekdays she was attiring herself 
more carefully. Making up excuses for her con- 
science, she tried to place herself more fre- 
quently in his path. It made her happy to feel 
Grigory's black eyes caressing her heavily and 


rapturously. When she awoke of a morning 
and went to milk the cows she would smile, 
and without realizing why, think to herself: 
"Today's a happy day. But why. . .? Oh, Grigo- 
ry. , . . Grisha." She was frightened by the new 
feeling which filled her, and in her thoughts 
she felt her way gropingly, cautiously, as 
though crossing the Don over the melting ice 
of March. 

After seeing Stepan off to camp she decided 
to see Grigory as little as possible. After the 
fishing, her decision was still further strength- 


Some two days before Trinity the distribu- 
tion of the village meadowland took place. Pan- 
telei attended the allotment. He came back at 
dinner-time, kicked off his boots with a groan, 
and noisily scratching his weary feet, an- 
nounced : 

"We've got the stretch near the Red Bank. 
Not very good grass as grass goes. The upper 
part runs up to the forest, it's just scrub in 
places. And a bit of quitch coming through." 

"When shall we do the mowing?" Grigory 

"After the holidays." 

5* 67 

"Are you going to take Darya along?" the 
old woman frowned. Pantelei Prokofyevich 
brushed her aside. 

"Let me alone ! We'll take her if we need her. 
Get lunch ready. Why do you stand around 

The old wife opened the oven door with a 
clatter, and drew out the warmed-up cabbage 
soup. Pantelei sat over the meal a long time, 
telling of the day's events, and of the tricky 
ataman, who had all but swindled the whole 
assembly of Cossacks. 

"He was up to his tricks last year," Darya 
put in. "The way he tried to swindle Malashka 
when they were sharing out the plots." 

"He's always been a son of a bitch," Pan- 
telei muttered. 

"But who's going to do the raking and stack- 
ing. Dad?" Dunya asked timidly. 

"What about you?" 

"I can't do it all by myself." 

"We'll ask Aksinya Astakhova. Stepan 
asked us to mow for him." 

The next morning Mitka Korshunov rode up 
to the Melekhov yard on his white-legged stal- 
lion. A fine rain was falling. Thick mist hung 
over the village. Mitka leaned out of his sad- 
dle, opened the wicket and rode in. The old 
wife hailed him from the steps. 


"Hey, you rapscallion, what do you want?" 
she asked with evident dissatisfaction in her 
voice, for she had no love for the reckless and 
quarrelsome Mitka. 

"What's that to you, Ilyinichna?" Mitka 
said in surprise, as he tied his horse to the rail- 
ing. "I want Grisha. Where is he?" 

"He's asleep in the shed. But have you had 
a -stroke? Have you lost the use of your legs 
that you must ride?" 

"You're always poking your nose in, old la- 
dy!" Mitka retorted huffily. Smacking an ele- 
gant whip against the legs of his glossy leather 
boots, he went to look for Grigory, and found 
him asleep in a cart. Screwing up his left eye, 
Mitka lashed Grigory with his whip. 

"Get up, muzhik!" 

"Muzhik" was the most abusive word Mitka 
could think of using. Grigory jumped up as 
though on springs. 

"What do you want?" 

"You've been in bed long enough." 

"Stop fooling around, Mitka, before I get 

"Get up, I've got to talk to you." 


Mitka sat down on the side of the cart, and 
scraping the dried mud off his boots with a 
stick, he said: 


"I've been insulted, Grisha." 


"You see, it's . . /' Mitka cursed heavily. 
"He's a lieutenant, so he likes to show off." He 
snapped out the words angrily, without open- 
ing his mouth, his legs were trembling. Grigory 
got up. 

"What lieutenant?" 

Seizing him by the sleeve, Mitka said more 
quietly : 

"Saddle your horse at once, and come to the 
meadows. I'll show him! I said to him: 'Come 
on. Your Honour, and we'll see.' 'Bring all your 
friends and comrades,' he said, 'I'll beat the lot 
of you. My mare's dam took prizes at the of- 
ficers' hurdle-races at St. Petersburg.' What is 
his mare or her dam to me? Curse them! I 
won't let them outrace my stallion!" 

Grigory hastily dressed. Choking with rage 
Mitka hurried him up, 

"He's come to visit the merchant Mokhov. 
Wait, what's his name? Listnitsky, I think. Big, 
serious-looking fellow, wears glasses. Well, and 
let him! His glasses won't help him: I won't 
let him catch my stallion!" 

With a laugh, Grigory saddled the old mare 
and, to avoid meeting his father, rode out to 
the steppe through the threshing-floor gate. 
They rode to the meadow at the foot of the hill, 


Close to a withered poplar, horsemen were 
awaiting them: the officer Listnitsky on a hand- 
some, clean-limbed mare, and seven of the vil- 
lage lads mounted bareback. 

"Where shall we start from?" the officer 
turned to Mitka, adjusting his pince-nez and 
admiring the stallion's powerful chest muscles. 

"From the poplar to the Tsar's Pond." 

"Where's the Tsar's Pond?" Listnitsky 
screwed up his eyes short-sightedly. 

"There, Your Honour, on the edge of the 

They lined up the horses. The officer raised 
his whip above his head. 

"When I say 'three.' All right? One . . . two 
. . . three!" 

Listnitsky got away first, pressing close to the 
saddle-bow, holding his cap on with his hand. 
For a second he led all the rest. Mitka, his face 
desperately pale, rose in his stirrups-to Grigory 
he seemed unbearably slow in bringing the whip 
down on the croup of his stallion. 

It was some three versts to the Tsar's Pond, 
Stretched out straight as an arrow, Mitka' s stal- 
lion caught up with Listnitsky' s mare when half 
the course had been covered. Left behind from 
the very beginning, Grigory trotted along, 
watching the straggling chain of riders. 


By the Tsar's Pond was a sandy hillock, 
washed up by the spring floods. Its yellow cam- 
el-hump was overgrown with sandwort. Gri- 
gory saw the officer and Mitka gallop up the 
hillock and disappear over the brow together, 
the others following. When he reached the pond 
the horses were already standing in a group 
around Listnitsky. Mitka was sleek with re- 
strained delight, every movement expressing his 
triumph. Contrary to his expectations, the offi- 
cer did not seem at all disconcerted. He stood 
with his back against a tree, smoking a cigar- 
ette, and said, pointing to his foam-flecked 

"I've ridden a hundred and fifty versts on her 
already. I rode over from the stanitsa only yes- 
terday. If she were fresh, you'd never have 
caught me, Korshunov." 

"Maybe," Mitka said magnanimously. 

"His stallion's the best in the district," a 
freckled lad, who had come up last, remarked 

"He's a good horse," said Mitka and stroked 
the stallion's neck, his hand trembling with 
emotion. He glanced at Grigory and grinned 

Grigory and Mitka left the others and rode 
home, skirting the village. The lieutenant took 


a chilly leave of them, thrust two fingers under 
the peak of his cap and turned away. 

As they were approaching home, Grigory saw 
Aksinya comimg towards them. She was strip- 
ping a twig as she walked. When she noticed 
him she bent her head lower. 

"What are you blushing for, are we naked?" 
shouted Mitka and winked. 

Gazing straight before him, Grigory almost 
rode by her, then suddenly struck the ambling 
mare with his whip. She sat back on her hind- 
legs and sent a shower of mud over Aksinya. 

"Oh, you mad devil!" 

Wheeling sharply and riding his excited 
mount at her, Grigory demanded: 

"Why don't you say hullo?" 

"You're not worth it!" 

"And that's why I sent the mud over you. 
Don't think so much of yourself." 

"Let me pass!" Aksinya shouted, waving her 
arms in front of the horse's nose. "What are you 
trampling me with your horse for?" 

"She's a mare, not a horse." 

"1 don't care; let me pass." 

"What are you getting angry for, Aksinya? 
Siurely not because of the other day, in the 

Grigory gazed into her eyes. Aksinya tried to 
say something, but a little tear started from the 


comer of her dark eye, and her lips quivered 
pitifully. Swallowing hard, she whispered: 

"Go away, Grigory. . . . I'm not angry. . , , 
I. . . ." And she went. 

The astonished Grigory overtook Mitka 
at the gate. 

"Coming out for the evening?" Mitka asked. 


"Why, what's on? Or did she invite you to 
spend the night with her?" 

Grigory rubbed his forehead with his palm 
and made no reply. 


All that was left of Trinity in the village 
houses was the dry thyme scattered over the 
floors, the dust of crumpled leaves, and the 
shrivelled, withered green of broken oak and 
ash branches fastened to the gates and stairs. 

The haymaking began immediately after 
Trinity. From early morning the meadow blos- 
somed with women's holiday skirts, the bright 
embroidery of aprons, and coloured kerchiefs. 
The whole village turned out for the mowing. 
The mowers and rakers attired themselves as 
though for an annual holiday. So it had been 
from of old. From the Don to the distant alder 


thickets the ravaged meadowland stirred and 

The Melekhovs were late in starting. They 
set out when nearly half the village were al- 
ready in the meadow. 

"You sleep late, Pantelei Prokofyevich," the 
perspiring haymakers greeted him. 

"Not my fault . . . the women again!" the old 
man laughed, and urged on the bullocks with 
his knout of raw hide. 

"Good-day to you, neighbour! You're a bit 
late, aren't you?" a tall Cossack in a straw hat 
said, shaking his head as he stood sharpening 
his scythe at the side of the road. 

"You reckon the grass will be dry?" 

"If you don't get a move on, it soon will be." 

At the back of the cart sat Aksinya, her face 
completely covered to protect it from the sun. 
From the narrow slits left for her eyes she 
stared calmly and severely at Grigory seated op- 
posite her. Darya, also wrapped up and dressed 
in her Sunday best, her legs dangling between 
the rungs of the wagon-side, was giving her long 
blue-veined breast to the child dozing in her 
arms. Dunya fidgeted on the box, her happy 
eyes scanning the meadow and the people walk- 
ing along the road. Her face, cheerful and sun- 
burnt, with a sprinkling of freckles across her 
nose, seemed to say, "I feel gay and happy, be- 


cause the day, with its blue and cloudless sky, 
is also happy; because my soul is filled with the 
same cloudless blue calm. I'm happy, I have 
everything I want." 

Drawing the sleeve of his cotton shirt over 
his fists, Pantelei wiped away the sweat running 
down from under the peak of his cap. The shirt 
stretched tightly across his bent back, darkened 
with moist patches. The sun pierced slantingly 
through a grey fleecy cloud, and dropped a fan 
of misty, refracted rays over the meadov/, the 
village, and the distant, silvery hills of the Don. 

The day was sultry. The little clouds crept 
along drowsily, not even overtaking Pantelei' s 
bullocks as they plodded along the road. The 
old man himself lifted and waved the knout 
languidly, as though in doubt whether to strike 
their bony flanks or not. Evidently realizing 
this, the bullocks did not hasten their pace, and 
slowly, gropingly set forward their cloven hoofs 
and swished their tails. A dusty gold-and-orange- 
tingled horsefly circled above them. The 
meadowland that had been scythed near the 
threshing-floors glowed with pale-green patches; 
where the grass had not yet been cut, the 
grassy silk, green with a gleam of black in it, 
rustled in the breeze, 

"There's our strip," Pantelei waved his knout. 

Grigory unharnessed the weary bullocks. The 


old man, his ear-ring glittering, went to look for 
the mark he had made at the end of the strip. 

"Bring the scythes," he called out after a 
moment, waving his hand. 

Grigory went to him, treading down the 
grass, and leaving an undulating trail behind 
him, Pantelei faced the distant bell-tower and 
crossed himself. His hook-nose shone as though 
freshly varnished, the sweat clung to the hol- 
lows of his swarthy cheeks. He smiled, bar- 
ing a close-set row of white, gleaming teeth 
in his raven beard, and, with his wrinkled 
neck bent to the right, swept the scythe 
through the grass. A seven-foot semicircle of 
mown grass lay at his feet. 

Eyes half closed, Grigory followed in his 
steps, laying the grass low with the scythe. The 
women's aprons blossomed in a scattered rain- 
bow before him, but his eyes sought only one, 
a white one with an embroidered border; he 
glanced at Aksinya and started mowing again, 
keeping pace with his father. 

Aksinya was continually in his thoughts. Half 
closing his eyes, in imagination he kissed her 
and spoke to her in burning tender words that 
came to his tongue from he knew not where. 
Then he dropped such thoughts and stepped 
out again methodically, one . . . two . . . three; 
and his memory slipped in fragments of the 


Ji>ast, Sitting under the damp hayrick . . . the 
moon over the meadow . . . now and then a drop 
falling from the bush into the puddle . . . one 
. . . two . . . three. . . . Good! Ah, that had been 
good ! 

He heard laughter behind him. He looked 
back: Darya lay under the cart and Aksinya 
was bending over her, telling her something. 
Darya waved her arms, and again they both 
laughed. Dunya was sitting on the shaft and 
singing in a shrill voice. 

"I'll get to that bush, then I'll sharpen my 
scythe," Grigory thought. At that moment he 
felt the scythe pass through something soft and 
yielding. He bent down. A little wild duckling 
went scurrying into the grass with a squawk. 
By the hole where the nest had been another 
was huddled, cut in two by the scythe, the rest 
of the brood scattered twittering in the grass. 
He lay the dead bird on his palm. It had evi- 
dently come from the egg only a few days pre- 
viously; there was still a living warmth in the 

On the flat, half-open beak there was a pink- 
ish bubble of blood, the beady eyes were 
puckered slyly, the little legs were still warm 
and quivering. With a sudden keen feeling of 
compassion he stared at the inert little ball ly- 
ing in his hand. 


"What have you found, Grisha?'' 

Dunya came dancing along the mown alley, 
her pigtails tossing on her breast. Frowning, 
Grigory threw away the duckling and angrily 
wielded his scythe. 

Dinner was eaten in haste. Bacon-fat and the 
Cossacks' stand-by, sour skimmed milk, brought 
from home in a bag, were the entire meal. 

After dinner the women began to rake the 
hay. The cut grass wilted and dried, giving off 
a heavy, stupefying scent. 

"No point in going home!" Pantelei said dur- 
ing dinner. "We'll turn the bullocks out to 
graze in the forest, and tomorrow as soon 
as the dew is off the grass we'll finish the 

Dusk had fallen when they stopped for the 
day. Aksinya raked the last rows together, and 
went to the cart to cook some millet mash. All 
day she had maliciously made fun of Grigory, 
gazing at him with eyes full of hatred, as 
though in revenge for some great, unforgettable 
injury. Grigory, gloomy and faded somehow, 
drove the bullocks down to the Don for water. 
His father had watched him and Aksinya all 
day. Eyeing Grigory unpleasantly he said: 

"Have your supper, and then guard the bul- 
locks. See that they don't get into the grass! 
Take my sheepskin." 


Darya laid her child under the cart and went 
into the forest with Dunya for brushwood. 

Over the meadow the waning moon mounted 
the dark, inaccessible heaven. A snowstorm of 
moths whirled around the flames. Near the fire 
supper was laid on a piece of coarse cloth. The 
millet boiled in the smoky field-pot. Wiping a 
spoon with the edge of her underskirt, Darya 
called to Grigory: 

"Come and have your supper." 

His father's sheepskin draped over his shoul- 
ders, Grigory emerged from the darkness and 
approached the fire. 

"What's made you so moody?" Darya 

"Got the back-ache. Must be going to rain," 
he countered lightly, 

"He doesn't want to watch the bullocks," 
Dunya laughed, and, sitting down by her 
brother, she tried to start a conversation. But 
somehow her efforts were unsuccessful. Pan- 
telei supped his porridge, crunching the under- 
cooked millet with his teeth. Aksinya ate with- 
out lifting her eyes, smiling half-heartedly at 
Darya's jokes. A troubled flush burned in her 

Grigory got up first and went off to the bul- 

"Take care the bullocks don't trample some- 


body else's grass," his father shouted after him, 
then a crumb of millet stuck in his throat and 
for a long time he coughed raspingly. Dunya's 
cheeks swelled as she tried to suppress her 

The fire burned low. The smouldering brush- 
wood wrapped the little group in the honey 
scent of burning leaves. 

At midnight Grigory stole up to the camp, 
and halted some ten paces away. His father was 
snoring tunefully on the cart. The unquenched 
embers stared out from the ash with golden 
peacock's eyes. 

A grey, shrouded figure broke away from 
the cart and came slowly towards Grigory. 
Two or three paces away, it halted. Aksinya! 
Grigory's heart thumped fast and heavily; he 
stepped forward crouchingly, flinging back the 
edge of his sheepskin, and pressed her com- 
pliant, burning body to his own. Her legs bowed 
at the knees; she trembled, her teeth chat- 
tering. Grigory suddenly flung her over his arm 
as a wolf throws a slaughtered sheep across 
its back, and, stumbling over the trailing edges 
of his open coat, and panting hard, made off. 

"Oh, Grisha, Grisha! Your father. . . ." 


Tearing herself away, gasping for breath in 
the sour sheep's wool, choking with the bitter- 

6—1933 81 

ness of regret, Aksinya cried in a low moaning 
voice that was almost a shout: 

"Let go, what does it matter now. . .? I'll go 
of my own accord." 


Not azure and poppy-red, but rabid as the 
wayside henbane is a woman's belated love. 

After the mowing Aksinya was a changed 
woman: as though someone had set a mark on 
her face, branded her. When other women met 
her they smiled slyly, and nodded their heads 
after her. The girls were envious, but she held 
her happy, shameful head proud and high. 

Soon everybody knew of her affair with Gri- 
gory Melekhov. At first it was talked about in 
whispers-only half-believed-but after the vil- 
lage shepherd had seen them in the early dawn 
by the windmill, lying under the moon in the 
young rye, the rumour spread like a wave 
breaking turbidly on the shore. 

It reached Pantelei's ears also. One Sunday he 
happened to go along to Mokhov's shop. The 
throng was so great that no more could have 
crowded through the door. He entered, and 
everybody seemed to be making way for him, 
smiling at him. He pushed towards the counter 
where the draperies were sold. The master, Ser- 


gei Platonovich Mokhov, took it upon himself 
to attend to the old man. 

"Where have you been all this long while, 
Prokofyevich?" he asked. 

"Too much to do. Troubles with the farm." 
"What? Sons like yours, and troubles?" 
"What of my sons? I've seen Pyotr off to 
camp, there's only me and Grisha to do every- 

Mokhov divided his stiff, ruddy beard into 
two with his fingers and glanced significantly 
out of the corner of his eye at the crowd of 

"Oh, yes, old man, and why haven't you told 
us anything about it?" 
"About what?" 

"How d'you mean, what? Thinking of marry- 
ing your son, and not a word to anybody!" 
"Which son?" 

"Why, your son Grigory isn't married." 
"And I'm not thinking of marrying him yet." 
"But I've heard that you're getting yourself 
a daughter-in-law . . . Stepan Astakhov's Aksi- 

"What? With her husband alive. . . , Why, 

Platonovich, you must be joking! Aren't you?" 

"Joking? But I've had it from others." 

Pantelei smoothed out the piece of material 

spread over the counter, then, turning sharply, 

6* 83 

limped towards the door. He made straight for 
home. He walked with his head lowered like a 
bull, his fingers knotted in his fist, hobbling 
more noticeably on his lame leg. As he passed 
the Astakhovs' house he glanced over the wat- 
tle fence: Aksinya, looking young and smart, 
with a lithe swing in her hips, was going into 
the house with an empty bucket. 

"Hey, wait!" he called, and stumped in at the 
gate. Aksinya halted and waited for him. They 
went into the house. The cleanly-swept earthen 
floor was sprinkled with red sand; on the bench 
in the corner were pasties fresh from the oven. 
A smell of musty clothes and sweet apples came 
from the best room. 

A tabby cat with a huge head purred round 
Pantelei's legs. It arched its back and pressed 
itself against his boots. With a fierce kick he 
sent it flying against the bench. 

"What's all this I hear? Eh?" he shouted 
looking Aksinya straight in the eyes. "Your 
husband hardly out of sight, and you already 
setting your cap at other men! I'll make 
Grisha's blood flow for this, and I'll write to 
your Stepan! Let him hear of it! You whore, 
haven't you been beaten enough! Don't set your 
foot inside my yard from this day on. Carrying 
on with a young man, and when Stepan comes, 
I'll have to. . . ." 


Aksinya listened with narrowed eyes. And 
suddenly she shamelessly swung the hem of her 
skirt, enveloped Pantelei in the smell of wom- 
an's clothes, and came breasting at him with 
writhing lips and bared teeth. 

"What are you, my father-in-law? Eh? Who 
are you to teach me? Co and teach your own 
fat-bottomed woman! Keep order in your own 
yard! You limping, stump-footed devil! Clear 
out of here, you won't frighten me!" 

"Wait, you daft hussy!" 

"There's nothing to wait for! Get back where 
you came from! And if I want your Grisha, I'll 
eat him, bones and all, and answer for it my- 
self! Chew that over! What if I love Grisha? 
Beat me, will you? Write to my husband? Write 
to the ataman if you like, but Grisha belongs 
to me! He's mine! Mine! I have him and I shall 
keep him!" 

Aksinya pressed against the quailing Pantelei 
with her breast (it beat against her thin blouse 
like a bustard in a noose), seared him with the 
flame of her black eyes, overwhelmed him with 
more and more terrible and shameless words. 
His eyebrows quivering, the old man backed to 
the door, groped for the stick he had left in the 
comer, and waving his hand, pushed open the 
door with his bottom, Aksinya pressed him out 
of the passage, pantingly, frenziedly shouting: 


"I'll have my love, I'll make up for all the 
wrongs I've suffered! And then kill me if you 
like! He's my Grisha! Mine!" 

Muttering something into his beard, Pantelei 
limped off to his house. 

He found Grigory in the room. Without say- 
ing a word, he brought his stick down over his 
son's back. Doubling up, Grigory hung on his 
father's arm. 

"What's that for. Father?" 

"For your goings-on, you son of a bitch!" 

"What goings-on?" 

"Don't wrong your neighbour! Don't shame 
your father! Don't run after women, you young 
buck!" Pantelei snorted, dragging Grigory, who 
had grabbed the stick, around the room trying 
to wrest it from him. 

"I'm not going to let you beat me'" Grigory 
cried hoarsely, and setting his teeth, he tore the 
stick out of his father's hand. Across his knee 
it went, and-snap! 

Pantelei Prokofyevich struck him on the neck 
with his hard fist. 

"I'll whip you in public. You accursed son 
of the devil! I'll marry you to the village idiot! 
I'll geld you!" his father roared. 

The noise brought the old mother running 
into the room. 


"Pantelei, Pantelei! Cool down a little! Wait!" 

But the old man had lost his temper in real 
earnest. He sent his wife flying, overturned the 
table with the sewing-machine on it, and victo- 
riously flew out into the yard. Grigory, whose 
shirt had been torn in the struggle, had not had 
time to take it off when the door banged open 
again, and his father appeared once more like 
a storm-cloud on the threshold. 

"I'll marry him off, the son of a bitch!" He 
stamped his foot like a horse and fixed his gaze 
on Grigory's muscular back. "I'll drive off to- 
morrow and arrange the match. To think that I 
should live to see people laugh in my face 
about my son." 

"Let me get my shirt on first, then you can 
marry me off." 

"I'll marry you to the village idiot!" The door 
slammed, and the old man clattered away down 
the steps. 


Beyond the village of Setrakov the carts with 
tarpaulin covers stretched in rows across the 
steppe. At unbelievable speed a neat, white- 
roofed little town had grown up, with straight 
streets and a small square in the centre, where 
a sentry stood guard. 


The men lived the usual monotonous life of 
a training camp. In the morning the detach- 
ment of Cossacks guarding the grazing horses 
drove them into the camp. Then followed clean- 
ing, grooming, saddling, the roll-call, and mus- 
ter. The staff officer in command of the camp, 
Lieutenant-Colonel Popov, bawled stentoriously; 
the sergeants training the young Cossacks shout- 
ed their orders. They staged mock attacks on a 
hill, they cunningly encircled the "enemy." 
They fired at targets. The younger Cossacks ea- 
gerly vied with one another in the sabre exer- 
cises, and the old hands dodged as much of the 
training as they could. 

While voices grew hoarse with the heat and 
the vodka, a fragrant exciting wind blew over 
the long lines of covered wagons, the susliks 
whistled in the distance, and the steppe beck- 
oned away from the stuffiness and smoke of the 
whitewashed huts. 

About a week before the break-up of the 
camp Andrei Tomilin's wife came to visit him. 
She brought him some home-made cracknel, an 
assortment of dainties and a sheaf of village 

She left again very early in the morning, tak- 
ing the Cossacks' greetings and instructions to 
their families and relations in the village. Only 
Stepan Astakhov sent no message back by her. 

He had fallen ill the evening before, drunk 
vodka to cure himself and was incapable of see- 
ing anything in the whole wide world, including 
Tomilin's wife. He did not turn up on parade; 
at his own request the doctor's assistant let his 
blood, setting a dozen leeches on his chest. Ste- 
pan sat in his undershirt against the wheel of 
his cart (making the white linen cover of his cap 
oily with cart grease) and stared sulkily at the 
leeches sucking at his barrel-like chest and 
swelling with dark blood. 

The regiment medical orderly stood by smok- 
ing and letting the smoke filter through the 
wide gaps between his teeth. 

"Feel any better?" 

"They're drawing well. Easier for the heart 

"Leeches are a great thing!" 

Tomilin came up and gave Stepan a wink. 

"Stepan, I'd like a word with you." 

Stepan rose with a grunt and took Tomilin 

"My woman's been here on a visit. She left 
this morning." 


"There's a lot of talk about your wife in the 


"Not pleasant talk, either." 



"She's carrying on with Grigory Melekhov. 
Quite openly." 

Turning pale, Stepan tore the leeches from 
his chest and crushed them underfoot. When he 
had crushed the last one, he buttoned up his 
shirt, and then, as though suddenly afraid, un- 
buttoned it again. His chalky lips moved inces- 
santly. They trembled, slipped into an awk- 
ward smile, then shrivelled and gathered into 
a livid pucker. Tomilin thought Stepan must be 
chewing something hard and solid. Gradually 
the colour returned to his face, the lips, caught 
by his teeth, froze into immobility. He took off 
his cap, smeared the grease over the white cover 
with his sleeve, and said aloud: "Thanks for the 

"I just wanted to warn you. . . . You won't 
hold it against me." 

Tomilin clapped his hands against his trou- 
sers in a gesture of sympathy, and went off to 
his horse. A sound of voices and shouting was 
heard from the camp, the Cossacks had re- 
turned from the sabre exercises, Stepan stood 
for a moment staring fixedly and sternly at the 
black smear on his cap. 

A half-crushed, dying leech crawled up his 



In ten more days the Cossacks would be re- 
turning from camp. Aksinya lived in a frenzy of 
belated bitter love. Despite his father's threats, 
Grigory slipped out and went to her at night, 
coming home at dawn. 

In two weeks he had drained his strength, 
like a horse striving beyond its powers. From 
lack of sleep his brown face was suffused under 
the high cheek-bones with a blue tinge, his 
tired eyes gazed wearily out of their sunken 
sockets. Aksinya went about with her face com- 
pletely uncovered, the deep hollows under her 
eyes darkened funereally; her swollen, avid lips 
smiled with a restless challenge. 

So extraordinary and open was their mad as- 
sociation, so ecstatically did they burn with a 
single, shameless flamie, neither conscience- 
stricken nor hiding their love from the world, 
becoming gaunt and dark before its very eyes, 
that people began to be ashamed to meet them 
in the street. Grigory's comrades, who previous- 
ly had chaffed him about Aksinya, now kept si- 
lent and felt awkward and constrained in his 
company. In their hearts the women envied Ak- 
sinya, yet they condemned her, gloating at the 
prospect of Stepan's return, and pining with cu- 
riosity as to how it would all end. 


If Grigory had made some show of hiding 
from the world his affair with this grass-widow, 
and if the grass-widow Aksinya had kept her 
relations with Grigory comparatively secret, 
without shunning others, the world would have 
seen nothing unusual in it. The village would 
have gossiped a little and then forgotten. 
But they lived together almost openly, they 
were bound by something greater, which had 
no likeness to any temporary association, 
and for that reason the villagers decided it was 
immoral and held their breath in peeping 
expectation. Stepan would return and cut the 

Over the bed in the Astakhovs' bedroom ran 
a string threaded with empty white and black 
cotton-reels. They hung there for decoration. 
The flies spent their nights on the reels, and spi- 
ders' webs stretched from them to the ceiling. 
Grigory was lying on Aksinya's bare, cool arm 
and gazing up at the chain of reels. With the 
toil-roughened fingers of her other hand Aksi- 
nya was playing with the thick strands of hair 
on his head. Her fingers smelt of warm milk; 
when Grigory turned his head, pressing his 
nose into Aksinya's armpit, the pungent, 
sweetish scent of woman's sweat flooded his 


In addition to the wooden, painted bedstead 
with pointed pine cones at the comers, the room 
contained a capacious iron-bound chest that 
stood close to the door, holding Aksinya's dowry 
and all her finery. In the corner was a table, an 
oleograph of General Skobelev riding towards 
a row of flapping banners dipped before him, 
two chairs, and above them icons in gawdy pa- 
per aureoles. Along the side wall hung fly-blown 
photographs. One was a grotip of Cossacks, with 
curly forelocks, swelling chests decorated with 
watch chains, and drawn swords-Stepan and 
his comrades on active service. On a hook hung 
Stepan's uniform, it had not been put away. The 
moon stared through the window and uncertain- 
ly fingered the two white sergeant's straps on 
the shoulder. 

With a sigh Aksinya kissed Grigory on the 
bridge of his nose, between his eyebrows. 

"Grisha, my love." 


"Only nine days left." 

"That's not so soon." 

"What am I to do, Grisha?" 

"How should I know?" 

Aksinya restrained a sigh and again smoothed 
and parted Grigory's matted hair. 

"Stepan will kill me," she half-asked, half- 


Grigory was silent. He wanted to sleep. With 
difficulty he forced open his clinging eyelids 
and saw above him the glittering bluish black- 
ness of Aksinya's eyes. 

"When my husband comes back, you'll give 
me up, won't you? You'll be afraid?" 

"Why should I be afraid of him? You're his 
wife, it's for you to be afraid." 

"When I'm with you I'm not afraid, but when 
I think about it in the daytime I am." 

Grigory yawned and said: "It doesn't matter 
so much about Stepan coming back. My father's 
talking of getting me married off." 

He smiled and was going to add something, 
but he felt Aksinya's hand under his head sud- 
denly wilt and soften, bury itself in the pillow, 
and after a moment harden again. 

"Who has he got in mind?" she asked in a 
stifled voice, 

"He's only talking about it. Mother says he's 
thinking of Korshunov's Natalya." 

"Natalya . . . she's a good-looking girl. Very 
good-looking. . . . Well, go ahead and marry her. 
I saw her in church the other day. Dressed up 
she was. . . ." Aksinya spoke rapidly, but he 
could scarcely hear her, her voice was so life- 
less and dull, 

"I don't care two pins about her good looks. 
I'd like to marry you." 


Aksinya sharply pulled her arm from undef 
Grigory's head and stared with dry eyes at the 
window. A frosty, yellow mist was in the yard. 
The shed cast a heavy shadow. The crickets 
were chirruping. Down by the Don the bitterns 
boomed; their deep sullen tones floated through 
the bedroom window. 


"Thought of something?" 

Aksinya seized Grigory's rough, unyielding 
hands, pressed them to her breast, and to her 
cold, almost lifeless cheeks, and cried: 

"What did you take up with me for, curse 
you! What shall I do? Grisha! I'm finished. . . . 
Stepan is coming back, and what shall I tell 
him. . .? Who is there to help me?" 

Grigory was silent. Aksinya gazed mournful- 
ly at his handsome eagle nose, his shadowed 
eyes, his dumb lips. . . . And suddenly a flood of 
feeling swept away the dam of restraint. Mad- 
ly she kissed his face, his neck, his arms, the 
rough, curly black hair on his chest, and Gri- 
gory felt her body trembling as, gasping for 
breath, she whispered: 

"Grisha . . . my dearest . . , beloved . . . let's go 
away. My darling! We'll throw up everything 
and go. I'll leave my husband and everything, 
so long as you're with me. . . . We'll go far away, 


to the mines. I'll love you and care for you. I've 
got an uncle who is a watchman at the Paramo- 
nov mines: he'll help us. . . . Grisha! Oh, say 

Grigory lay thinking, then unexpectedly 
opened his burning foreign-looking eyes. They 
were laughing, gleaming derision. 

"You're a fool, Aksinya, a fool! You talk 
away, but you say nothing worth listening to. 
How can I leave the farm? I've got to do my 
military service next year. . . . I'll never stir any- 
where away from the land. Here there is the 
steppe, and something to breathe-but there? 
Last simimer I went with Father to the station. 
I nearly died. Engines roaring, the air all thick 
and heavy with burning coal. How people live 
there, I don't know; perhaps they're used to 
it!" Grigory spat and said again: "I'll never 
leave the village." 

The night grew darker outside the window, a 
cloud passed over the moon. The frosty, yellow 
mist vanished from the yard, the shadows were 
washed away, and now there was no telling 
whether it was last year's faggots or some old 
bush that loomed darkly beyond the fence out- 
side the window. 

The room, too, grew darker. The stripes on 
Stepan's uniform faded, and in the grey, stag- 
nant murk Grigory did not see the fine shiver that 


shook Aksinya's shoulders, or her head pressed 
between her hands and silently shaking on the 


After the visit of Tomilin's wife Stepan's fea- 
tures became distinctly less handsome. His brows 
drooped over his eyes, a deep and harsh frown 
puckered his forehead. He spoke little with his 
comrades, began to quarrel over trifles, had a 
cross with the sergeant-major and would hardly 
look at Pyotr Melekhov. The threads of friend- 
ship which had previously united them were 
snapped. In his sullen, seething rage Stepan 
plunged downhill like a bolting horse. They re- 
turned home enemies. 

Of course something had to happen that 
brought the vague hostility of their relations to a 
head. They set out for their village in the same 
group as before. Pyotr's and Stepan's horses 
were harnessed to the wagon. Christonya rode 
behind on his own horse. Tomilin, who was suf- 
fering from fever, lay covered with his greatcoat 
in the wagon. Fedot Bodovskov was too lazy to 
drive, so Pyotr took the reins. Stepan walked 
along at the side of the wagon, lashing off the 
purple heads of the roadside thistles with his 
whip. Rain was falling. The rich black earth 

7—1933 97 

stuck to the wheels like tar. The sky was an au- 
tumnal blue, ashy with cloud. Night fell. No 
lights of any village were to be seen. Pyotr be- 
laboured the horses liberally with the knout. 
And suddenly Stepan shouted in the darkness: 

"You, what the . . . you . . . ! You spare your 
own horse, but keep the knout on mine all the 

"Keep your eyes open! I whip the one that 
doesn't pull." 

"Mind I don't put you in the shafts. That's 
what Turks are good for." 

Pyotr threw the reins down. 

"What do you want?" 

"Oh, stay where you are." 

"Shut up." 

"What are you flaring up at him for?" asked 
Christonya, riding up to Stepan. 

Stepan did not reply. They rode on for another 
half hour in silence. The mud squelched under 
the wheels. The rain pattered drowsily on the 
tarpaulin. Pyotr dropped the reins and smoked, 
running over in his mind all the insulting words 
he would use in the next quarrel with Stepan. 

"Out of the way. I want to get under cover." 
Stepan pushed Pyotr aside and jumped on the 
step of the cart. 

The wagon suddenly jolted and stopped. Slip- 
ping in the mud, the horses pawed the earth. 


Sparks shov/ered from their hoofs and the 
shaft groaned. 

"Whoa!" Pyotr shouted and leaped to the 

"What's the matter?" Stepan snapped anx- 

"Show a light," Pyotr demanded. 

In front a horse was struggling and snorting. 
Someone struck a match. A tiny orange ring of 
light, then darkness again. With trembling hands 
Pyotr felt the spine of the fallen horse, then 
pulled at the bridle. 

The horse sighed and rolled over, the centre- 
shaft snapped in half. Stepan struck a bunch of 
matches. His horse lay craning her neck with 
one foreleg buried to the knee in a marmot's 

Christonya unfastened the traces. 

"Unharness Pyotr's horse, look snappy," he 

"Whoa! Easy there! Easy!" 

At last Stepan's horse was lifted with difficul- 
ty to its feet. While Pyotr held it by the bridle, 
Christonya crawled on his knees in the mud, 
feeling the helplessly-hanging leg. 

"Seems to be broken," he boomed. 

"See if he can walk." 

Pyotr pulled at the bridle. The horse hopped 
a step or two, not putting its left foreleg to the 

7* 99 

ground, and whinnied. Drawing on his great- 
coat, Tomilin stamped about bitterly. 

"Broken, damn it! A horse lost!" 

Stepan, who all this time had not spoken a 
word, almost seemed to have been awaiting such 
a remark. Thrusting Christonya aside he flung 
himself on Pyotr, He aimed at his head, but 
missed and struck his shoulder. They grappled 
together and fell into the mud. There was the 
sound of a tearing shirt. Stepan got Pyotr under 
him, and holding his head down with one knee, 
pounded away with his fists. Christonya 
dragged him off cursing. 

"What's that for?" Pyotr shouted, spitting 

"Look where you drive, you snake!" 

Pyotr tried to tear himself out of Christonya's 

"Now then! You try fighting me!" Christonya 
roared, holding Pyotr with one hand against the 

They harnessed Bodovskov's small but sturdy 
horse with Pyotr's. Christonya gave his horse to 
Stepan to ride, and himself crawled into the cart 
with Pyotr. It was midnight when they arrived 
at a village. They stopped at the first house, and 
Christonya asked for a night's shelter. 

Ignoring the dog snapping at the skirts of his 
coat, he squelched through the mud to the win- 


dow, opened the shutter, and scratched at the 
pane with a horny fingernail. 


Only the whisper of the rain and a peal of 

"Master! Good folk, hi! Let us in for the 
night, for Christ's sake. Eh? From the training 
camp. How many? Five of us. Well, Christ save 

"Drive in!" he shouted turning to the gate. 

Bodovskov led the horses in. He stumbled 
over a pig's trough thrown down in the middle 
of the yard, and cursed vigorously. They led the 
horses into a shed. Tomilin, his teeth chattering, 
went into the house, Pyotr and Christonya re- 
mained in the cart. 

At dawn they made ready to set out again. 
Stepan came out of the house, an old hunch- 
backed woman hobbling after him. Christonya, 
who was harnessing the horses, shouted sympa- 

"Ho, granny, what a hump they've given you! 
Bet you're all right at bowing down in church. 
You don't have far to bend to reach the floor!" 

"If I'm good for bowing down, you're good 
for hanging dogs on, my lad. There's something 
for all of us," the old woman smiled severely, 
surprising Christonya with a full row cf small 
sound teeth. 


"And what teeth you've got, like a pike! Won't 
you give me a few? Here am I, a young man, 
and nothing to chew with." 

"What shall I have left for myself, my dear?" 

"We'll give you a horse's set, gran. You've 
got to die one day and they don't look at your 
teeth in the next world. The saints aren't horse- 
dealers, you know." 

"Keep it up, Christonya," Tomilin grinned as 
he climbed into the cart. 

The old woman followed Stepan into the shed. 

"Which one is it?" 

"The black," sighed Stepan. 

The woman laid her stick on the ground, and 
with an unexpectedly strong, masculine move- 
ment raised the horse's damaged leg. She felt 
the knee-cap carefully with her thin, crooked 
fingers. The horse set back its ears and reared 
on to its hindlegs with the pain. 

"No, there's no break there, Cossack. Leave 
him and I'll heal him." 

Stepan waved his hand and went to the cart. 

"Will you leave him or not?" the old woman 
watched him narrowly. 

"Let him stay," he replied. 

"She'll heal him for you. He won't have any 
legs left when you come back. The vet's a 
hunchback herself," Christonya said booming 
with laughter. 



"Oh how I long for him, granny dear! I'm 
withering away before my own eyes. I can't 
put tucks into my skirt fast enough. Every time 
he goes past the house my heart burns. I'd fall 
to the ground and kiss his footprints. Help me! 
They're going to marry him off. . . . Help me, 
dear. . , . Whatever it costs, I'll give you. . . . 
I'll give you my last shirt, only help me!" 

With luminous eyes set in a lacework of fur- 
rows the old crone Drozdikha looked at Aksi- 
nya, shaking her head at the bitter story. 

"Which lad is it?" 

"Pantelei Melekhov's." 

"That's the Turk, isn't it?" 


The old woman chewed away with her tooth- 
less gums, and hesitated with her answer. 

"Come to me very early tomorrow, child, as 
soon as day is dawning. We'll go down to the 
Don, to the water. We'll wash away your yearn- 
ing. Bring a pinch of salt with you." 

Aksinya wrapped herself in her yellow shawl 
and with drooping shoulders walked out 
through the gate. Her dark figure was swallowed 
up in the night, and the only sound was of her 
sandals scraping dryly on the earth. Then her 
steps died away. From somewhere at the end 


of the village came sounds of brawling and 

At dawn, Aksinya, who had not slept all 
night, was at Drozdikha's window. 


"Who's there?" 

"It's me, Aksinya! Get up!" 

They made their way by back lanes down 
to the river. The abandoned shafts of a wagon 
lay water-logged near the landing stage. At the 
water's edge the sand stung their bare feet icily. 
A damp, chilly mist crept up from the Don. 

Drozdikha took Aksinya's hand in her own 
bony hand and drew her to the water. 

"Give me the salt. Cross yourself to the 

Aksinya crossed herself, staring fiercely at 
the happy rosiness of the east. 

"Take up some water in your palm and 

Aksinya drank, wetting the sleeves of her 
blouse. Like a black spider the old woman 
straddled the lapping waves, squatted down, 
and began to whisper. 

"Icy streams from the deep. . . . Sorrowing 
flesh. ... A beast in the heart. . . . Yearning and 
fever. ... By the holy cross, by the pure and 
holy Mother. , . . The slave of God, Grigo- 
ry . . ." reached Aksinya's ears. 


Drozdikha sprinkled some salt over the damp 
sand at her feet and some more into the water, 
then put the rest in Aksinya's bosom. 

"Sprinkle some water over your shoulder. 

Aksinya did so. She stared moodily and an- 
grily at Drozdikha's russet cheeks. 

"Is that all?" 

"Yes, that's all. Go and sleep." 

Aksinya ran breathlessly home. The cows 
were lowing in the yard. Darya, sleepy-eyed 
and flushed, was driving her cows off to join 
the village herd. She smiled as she saw Aksi- 
nya run past. 

"Slept well, neighbour?" 

"Praise be!" 

"And where have you been so early?" 

"I had a call to make in the village." 

The church bells were ringing for matins. 
The copper-tongued clapping broke apart in 
splashes of sound. The village herdsman cracked 
his stockwhip in the side-street. Aksinya 
hurriedly drove out the cows, then carried the 
milk into the porch to strain it. She wiped her 
hands on her apron, and, lost in thought, 
poured the milk into the strainer. 

A heavy rattle of wheels and snorting of 
horses in the street. Aksinya set down the pail 
and went to look out of the front window. 


Holding his sabre pommel, Stepan was coming 
through the wicket-gate. The other Cossacks 
were galloping away towards the village 
square. Aksinya crumpled her apron in her fin- 
gers and sat down on the bench. Steps in the 
porch. . . . Steps in the passage. . . . Steps at the 
very door. . . . 

Stepan stood on the threshold, gaunt and 


Aksinya, all her full, buxom body reeling, 
went to meet him. 

"Beat me," she said slowly, and turned side- 
ways towards him. 

"Well, Aksinya?" 

"I shan't hide. I have sinned. Beat me, Ste- 



Her head drawn into her shoulders, crouch- 
ing down and protecting only her belly with 
her arms, she faced him. Her eyes stared un- 
blinkingly from their dark sockets, out of her 
dumb, fear-distorted face. Stepan swayed and 
walked past her. His unwashed shirt smelled 
of male sweat and bitter roadside scents. He 
dropped on to the bed without removing his 
cap. He lay for a moment, then jerked his shoul- 
ders, and threw off his sword-belt. His blond 
usually crisp moustache drooped limply. Not 
turning her head, Aksinya glanced sidelong at 


him. Now and then she shuddered. Stepan put 
his feet on the foot of the bed. The mud slowly 
oozed from his boots. He stared at the ceiling 
and toyed with the leather tassel of his sword. 

"Breakfast ready?" 

"No. . . ." 

"Get me something to eat." 

He sipped some milk, wetting his moustache. 
He chewed slowly at the bread. Aksinya stood 
by the stove. In burning terror she watched her 
husband's little gristly ears rising and falling 
as he ate. 

Stepan rose from the table and crossed him- 

"Come on, m'dear, tell me about it," he curt- 
ly demanded. 

With bowed head Aksinya cleared the table. 
She was silent. 

"Tell me how you waited for your husband, 
how you guarded his honour. Well?" 

A terrible blow on the head tore the ground 
from under Aksinya's feet and flung her to- 
wards the door. Her back struck against the 
door-post, and she groaned dully. 

Women are weak and soft in the body, but 
Stepan could send lusty and sturdy guardsmen 
flying with a well-aimed blow on the head. It 
may have been fear that lifted Aksinya, or per- 
haps it was a woman's will to live-she cam^ 


to her senses, lay a moment, resting, then 
scrambled on to all fours. 

Stepan was lighting a cigarette in the middle 
of the room and did not see her rising to her 
feet. He threw his tobacco pouch on the table, 
but Aksinya had already slammed the door be- 
hind her. He chased after her. 

Her head streaming with blood, Aksinya ran 
towards the fence separating their yard from 
the Melekhovs'. Stepan overtook her at the 
fence. His black hand fell like a hawk on her 
head. His fingers wound into her hair. He tore 
at it and threw her to the ground, into the cin- 
ders that Aksinya dumped by the fence every 

What if a husband does trample his wife with 
his boots, his hands behind his back? One- 
armed Alexei Shamil walked past the gate, 
looked in, blinked and parted his bushy little 
beard with a smile; after all it was quite under- 
standable why Stepan should be punishing his 
lawfully-wedded wife. Shamil was tempted to 
stop to see whether he would beat her to death 
or not, but his conscience would not allow him. 
After all, he wasn't a woman. 

Watching Stepan from afar, you v/ould have 
thought he was doing the Cossack dance. And 
so Grigory thought, as through the window he 
saw Stepan jumping up and down. But he 


looked again, and flew out of the house. Press- 
ing his heavy fists against his chest, he ran on 
his toes to the fence. Pyotr pounded after him. 

Over the high fence Grigory flew like a bird. 
He charged Stepan from behind at full speed. 
Stepan staggered and turning round came at 
Grigory like a bear. 

The Melekhov brothers fought desperately. 
They pecked at Stepan like carrion-crows at a 
carcass. Grigory went down several times un- 
der Stepan's rock-like fist. He was not quite a 
match for a hardened brawler like Stepan, but 
the stocky agile Pyotr, although he bent under 
the blows like a reed before the wind, stood 
firmly on his feet. 

Stepan, one eye flashing (the other was turn- 
ing the colour of an underripe plum) retreated 
to the steps. 

Christonya happened to come along to bor- 
row some harness from Pyotr, and he separat- 
ed them. 

"Stop that!" He waved his arms. "Break 
away, or I'll report it to the ataman." 

Pyotr carefully spat blood and half a tooth 
into his palm, and said hoarsely: 

"Come on, Grigory. We'll get him some 
other time." 

"Mind I don't get you!" Stepan threatened 
from the steps. 


"All right, all right!" 

"And no 'all right' about it, I'll tear your 
guts out." 

"Is that serious or joking?" 

Stepan came swiftly down the steps. Grigory 
broke forward to meet him, but pushing him 
towards the gate, Christonya promised: 

"Only dare, and I'll give you a good hid- 

From that day onward the hatred between 
the Melekhovs and Stepan Astakhov drew it- 
self into a tight knot. Grigory Melekhov was 
fated to untie that knot two years later in 
East Prussia, near the town of Stolypin. 


"Tell Pyotr to harness the mare and his own 

Grigory went out into the yard. Pyotr was 
pushing a wagonette out of the lean-to shed by 
the bam. 

"Dad says you've got to harness the mare 
and your own horse." 

"I know that without him telling me. Tell 
him to mind his own business," Pyotr respond- 
ed, fixing the shaft-bow. Pantelei, solemn as 
a churchwarden at mass, although sweating like 
a bull, sat finishing his soup. Dunya was watch- 


ing Grigory alertly, hiding a girlish twinkle 
somewhere in the shadowy cool of her long up- 
turned lashes. Ilyinichna, large and portly 
in her lemon-yellow Sunday shawl, a motherly 
anxiety lurking at the corners of her lips, said 
to the old man: 

"Stop stuffing yourself, Prokofyevich. One 
would think you were starving." 

"Won't even let me eat. What a nagger you 
are, woman." 

Pyotr's long, wheaten-yellow moustache ap- 
peared at the door. 

"Your carriage is ready, if you please!" 

Dunya burst into a laugh, and hid her face 
in her sleeve. Darya passed through the kitch- 
en and looked the future bridegroom over 
with a flutter of her fine lashes. 

Ilyinichna's shrewd widow cousin. Auntie 
Vasilisa, was to go with them as match-maker. 
She was the first to perch herself on the wagon- 
ette, twisting and turning her head, laughing, 
and displaying her crooked black teeth beneath 
the pucker of her lips. 

"Don't show your teeth, Vasilisa," Pantelei 
warned her. "You'll ruin everything. Those 
teeth of yours look as if they had been on a 
night out, there's not one that can stand up 


"Ah, Cousin, I'm not the bridegroom-to- 
be. . . ." 

"Maybe you're not, but don't laugh all the 
same. What teeth . . . the colour's enough to 
make you sick." 

Vasilisa took umbrage, but meanwhile Pyotr 
had opened the gate. Grigory sorted out the 
good-smelling leather reins and jumped into 
the driver's seat. Pantelei and Ilyinichna sat 
side by side at the back just like newlyweds. 

"Whip'em up!" shouted Pyotr, letting go the 

Grigory bit his lips and lashed the horses. 
They pulled at the traces and started off with- 
out warning. 

"Look out! You'll catch your wheel!" Darya 
shrilled, but the wagonette swerved sharply 
and, bouncing over the roadside hummocks, 
rattled down the street. 

Leaning to one side, Grigory touched up 
Pyotr's lagging horse with the whip. His fa- 
ther held his beard in his hand, as though 
afraid that the wind would snatch it away. 

"Whip up the mare!" he cried hoarsely, 
leaning over Grigory's shoulder. With the lace 
sleeve of her blouse Ilyinichna wiped away 
the tear that the wind had brought to her eye, 
and blinked at Grigory's blue satin shirt flut- 
tering and billowing on his back. The Cossacks 


along the road stepped aside and stood star- 
ing after them. The dogs came running out of 
the yards and yelped under the horses' feet. 
Their barking was drowned in the rumble of 
the freshly-shod wheels. 

Grigory spared neither whip nor horses, and 
within ten minutes the village was left behind. 
Korshunov's large house with its plank fence 
soon came into view. Grigory pulled on the reins, 
and the wagonette, breaking off its iron song 
right in the middle, suddenly drew up at the 
painted finely-carved gates. 

Grigory remained with the horses; Pantelei 
limped towards the steps. Ilyinichna and Va- 
silisa sailed after him with rustling skirts. The 
old man hurried, afraid of losing the courage 
he had summoned up during the ride. He 
stumbled over the high threshold, knocked his 
lame leg, and frowning with pain stamped fu- 
riously up the well-swept steps. 

He and Ilyinichna entered the kitchen almost 
together. He disliked standing at his wife's 
side, as she was taller by a good six inches; 
so he stepped a pace forward, and removing 
his cap, crossed himself before the blackened 

"Good health to you!" 

"Praise be!" the master of the house, a stocky, 
freckled old man replied, rising from the bench. 

8—1933 113 

"Some guests for you, Miron Grigoryevich," 
Pantelei continued, 

"Guests are always welcome. Marya, give the 
visitors something to sit on." 

His elderly, flat-chested wife wiped non-exist- 
ent dust from three stools, and pushed them 
towards the guests. Pantelei sat down on the 
very edge of one, and mopped his perspiring 
brow with his handkerchief. 

"We've come on business," he began without 
beating about the bush. At this point Ilyinichna 
and Vasilisa, pulling up their skirts, also sat 

"By all means. On what business?" the mas- 
ter smiled. 

Grigory entered, stared around him and greet- 
ed the Korshunovs. A deep russet spread 
across Miron's freckled face. Only now did he 
guess the object of the visit. "Have the horses 
brought into the yard. Get some hay put down 
for them," he ordered his wife. 

"We've just a little matter to talk over," 
Pantelei went on, twisting his curly beard and 
tugging at his ear-ring in his agitation. "You 
have a girl unmarried, we have a son. Couldn't 
we come to some arrangement? We'd like to 
know. Will you give her away now, or not? 
Mebbe we might become relations?" 


"Who knows?" Miron scratched his bald 
spot. "I must say, we weren't thinking of giv- 
ing her in marriage this autumn. We've our 
hands full with work here, and she's not so 
very old. She's only just past her eighteenth 
spring. That's right, isn't it, Marya?" 

"That's it." 

"She's the very age for marriage," Vasilisa 
put in. "A girl soon gets too old!" She fidget- 
ed on her stool, prickled by the besom she 
had stolen from the porch and thrust under her 
jacket. Tradition had it that match-makers who 
stole the girl's besom were never refused. 

"We had proposals for our girl way back in 
early spring. Our girl won't be left en the 
shelf. We can't grumble to the good God. . . . 
She can do everything, in the field or at 
home . . ." Korshunov's wife replied. 

"If a good man were to come along, you 
wouldn't say no," Pantelei broke into the wom- 
en's chatter. 

"It isn't a question of saying no," the master 
scratched his head. "We can give her away at 
any time." 

Pantelei thought he was going to be refused 
and got ruffled. 

"Well, it's your own business, of course. A 
man's got his choice, he can ask where he likes. 
If you're keen on finding some merchant's son, 

8* 115 

or someone of that kind, it's a different matter 
and we beg your pardon." 

The negotiations were on the point of break- 
ing down. Pantelei began to get agitated, and 
his face flushed a beetroot red, while the girl's 
mother clucked like a sitting hen shadowed by 
a kite. But Vasilisa intervened in the nick of 
time. She poured out a flood of quiet, soothing 
words, like salt on a burn, and healed the 

"Now, now, my dears! Once a matter like 
this is raised, it needs to be settled decently 
and for the happiness of your child. Natalya 
now-why, you might search far in broad day- 
light and not find another like her! Work bums 
in her hands! What a clever young woman! 
What a housewife! And as for her looks, you 
see for yourselves, good folk . . ." she opened 
her plump arms in a generous sweep, turning 
to Pantelei and the sulky Ilyinichna. "And he's 
a husband worthy of any. As I look at him my 
heart beats with yearning, he's so like my late 
husband, and his family are great workers. Ask 
anyone in these parts about Prokofyevich. In all 
the world he's known as an honest man and a 
kind one. ... In good faith, do we wish evil to 
our children?" 

Her chiding little voice flowed into Pantelei's 
ears like syrup. He listened and thought admir- 


ingly to himself: "Ah, the smooth-tongued dev- 
il, how she talks! Just try to keep up with 
her! Some women can even dumbfound a Cos- 
sack with their words. . . . And this from a pet- 
ticoat!" He was lost in admiration of Vasilisa, 
who was now oozing praise for the girl and her 
family as far back as the fifth generation. 

"Of course, we don't wish evil to our child." 

"The point is it's early to give her in 
marriage," the master said pacifically, with 
a smile. 

"It's not early! Honest to God it's not early," 
Pantelei rejoined. 

"Sooner or later, we have to part with her," 
the mistress sobbed, half-hypocritically, half in 

"Call your daughter, Miron Grigoryevich, 
and let's look at her." 


A girl appeared timidly at the door, her dark 
fingers fidgeting with the frill of her apron. 

"Come in! Come in! She's shy," the mother 
encouraged her, smiling through her tears. 

Grigory looked at her. 

Bold grey eyes under a black lace scarf. A 
small, rosy dimple in the supple cheek. Gri- 
gory turned his eyes to her hands: they were 
large and marred with hard work. Under the 
short green jacket embracing the strong body, 


the small, maidenly firm breasts rose outwards 
naively and pitifully, and their sharp little nip- 
ples showed like buttons. 

In a moment Grigory's eyes had taken her 
all in, from the head to the long, beautiful legs. 
He looked her over as a horse-dealer surveys 
a mare before purchase, thought: "She'll do," 
then let his eyes meet hers. The simple, sin- 
cere, slightly embarrassed gaze seemed to be 
saying: "Here am I all, as I am. Judge of me 
as you wish." "Splendid!" Grigory replied with 
his eyes and smile. 

"Well, that's all." Her father waved her 

As she closed the door behind her, Natalya 
looked at Grigory without attempting to con- 
ceal her smile and her curiosity. 

"Listen, Pantelei Prokofyevich," Korshunov 
began, after exchanging glances with his wife. 
"You talk it over, and we'll talk it over among 
the family. And then we'll decide whether we'll 
call it a match or not." 

As he went down the steps Pantelei slipped 
in a last word: 

"We'll call again next Sunday." 

Korshunov remained deliberately silent, pre- 
tending he had not heard. 



Only after he learned of Aksinya's conduct from 
Tomilin did Stepan, nursing his pain and hatred 
in his soul, realize that despite his poor sort of 
life with her he loved her with a dreary, hate- 
ful love. He had lain in the wagon at night, cov- 
ered with his greatcoat, his arms locked be- 
hind his head, and thought of how his wife 
would greet him on his return home. It was 
as if he had a scorpion in his breast in place 
of a heart. As he lay thinking over a thousand 
details of his revenge his teeth felt as if they 
were clogged with heavy grains of sand. The 
fight with Pyotr had spilled his anger. When 
he arrived home he had been tired out and Ak- 
sinya had got off lightly. 

From the day of his homecoming an unseen 
spectre dwelt in the Astakhovs' house. Aksinya 
went about on tiptoe and spoke in whispers, 
but in her eyes, sprinkled with the ash of fear, 
lurked a small spark, left from the flame Gri- 
gory had kindled. 

As he watched her, Stepan felt rather than 
saw this. He tormented himself. At night, when 
the drove of flies had fallen asleep on the cross- 
beam, and Aksinya, her lips trembling, had 
made the bed, he pressed his horny palm 
over her mouth and beat her. He demanded 


shameless details of her relations with Grigory. 
Aksinya tossed about and gasped for breath 
on the hard bed smelling of sheepskin. Tired 
of torturing her dough-soft body, he passed 
his hand over her face, seeking for tears. But 
her cheeks were bumingly dry, and only her 
jaws worked under his fingers. 

"Will you tell?" 


"I'll kill you!" 

"Kill me, kill me, for the love of Christ! 
This isn't life. . . ." 

Grinding his teeth, Stepan twisted the fine 
skin, all damp with sweat, on her breast. Ak- 
sinya shuddered and groaned. 

"Does it hurt?" Stepan said jocularly. 

"Yes, it hurts." 

"Do you think it didn't hurt me?" 

It would be late before he fell asleep. In his 
sleep he clenched his fists. Rising on her el- 
bow, Aksinya would gaze at her husband's face, 
handsome and changed in slumber, then let 
her head fall back on the pillow, and whisper 
to herself. 

She hardly saw Grigory now. Once she hap- 
pened to meet him down by the Don. Grigory 
had been watering the bullocks and was com- 
ing up the slope, waving a switch and staring 
at his feet. Aksinya was going down to the 


Don. She saw him, and felt the yoke of the 
buckets turn cold in her hands and the hot 
blood beat at her temples. 

Afterwards, when she recalled the meeting, she 
found it difficult to convince herself that it had 
really happened. Grigory noticed her when she 
had all but passed him. At the insistent creak- 
ing of the buckets he raised his head, his eye- 
brows quivered and he smiled stupidly. Aksi- 
nya gazed straight over his head at the green 
waves of the Don, and beyond at the ridge of 
the sandy headland. A burning flush wrung 
tears from her eyes. 


She walked on several paces and stood with 
her head bent as though before a blow. Angri- 
ly whipping a lagging bullock, he said with- 
out turning his head: 

"When is Stepan going out to cut the rye?" 

"He's getting ready now." 

"See him off, then go to our sunflower patch 
and I'll come along after." 

Her pails creaking, Aksinya went down to 
the Don. The foam snaked along the shore, 
a yellow flare of lace on the green hem of the 
wave. White sea-gulls were hovering and mew- 
ing above the river. Over the surface of the 
water, tiny fish sprinkled in a silver rain. On 
the other side, beyond the white of the sandy 


headland, the grey tops of ancient poplars rose 
haughtily and sternly. As Aksinya was draw- 
ing water she dropped her pail. She pulled up 
her skirt and waded in up to her knees. The 
water tickled her calves, and for the first time 
since Stepan's return she laughed quietly and 

She glanced back at Grigory. Still waving 
his switch, he was slowly climbing the slope. 
With eyes that were misty with tears Aksinya 
caressed his strong legs as they confidently 
trod the ground. His broad sharovari tucked 
into white woollen stockings were gay with 
crimson stripes. On his back, over his shoulder- 
blade, fluttered a strip of freshly-torn shirt, and 
a triangle of swarthy flesh showed through the 
hole. With her eyes Aksinya kissed this tiny 
scrap of the beloved body which once had been 
hers; and tears fell on her pallid, smiling lips. 

She set her pails down on the sand to hook 
them on to the yoke, and noticed the imprints 
of Grigory's shoes. She looked stealthily around: 
no one in sight except some boys bathing 
from the distant jetty. She squatted down and 
covered the footprint with her palm; then rose, 
swung the yoke across her shoulders, and has- 
tened home, smiling to herself. 

Caught in a muslin mistiness, the sun was 
passing over the village. Beyond the curly flock 


of small white clouds spread a deep, cool, azure 
pasture. Over the burning iron roofs, over the 
deserted dusty streets, over the farmyards with 
their parched, yellow grass, hung a deathly 

When Aksinya approached the steps Stepan, in 
a broad-brimmed straw hat, was harnessing the 
horses to the reaping machine. "Pour some wa- 
ter into the pitcher." 

Aksinya poured a pail of water into the 
pitcher and burned her fingers on the hot iron 

"You ought to have some ice or the water 
will get warm soon," she said, looking at her 
husband's perspiring back. 

"Go and borrow some from the Melekhovs. 
No, don't go," Stepan shouted, remember- 

Aksinya went to shut the wicket-gate. Ste- 
pan lowered his eyes and snatched up the 

"Where are you going?" 

"To shut the gate." 

"Come back, you bitch. I told you not to 


She hurriedly returned to the steps and tried 
to hang her yoke on the rails, but her hands 
were trembling too much. The yoke clattered 
down the steps. 


Stepan flung his tarpaulin coat over the front 
seat, and took up the reins, 

"Open the gate." 

As she did so, she ventured to ask: "When 
will you be back?" 

"By evening. I've agreed to reap with Ani- 
kushka. Take the food along to him. He'll be 
coming out to the fields when he's finished at 
the smith's." 

The wheels of the reaper squeaked as they 
carved into the grey plush of the dust. Aksinya 
went into the house and stood a moment with 
her hand pressed to her head, then, flinging a 
kerchief over her hair, ran down to the river. 

"But suppose he comes back? What then?" 
the thought suddenly burned into her mind. 
She stopped as though she saw a deep pit at 
her feet, glanced back, and sped almost at a 
run along the river bank to the meadows. 

Fences. Vegetable patches. A yellow sea of 
sunflowers outstaring the sun. The pale green 
of potato plants. There were the Shamil women 
hoeing their potato patch; bowed backs in pink 
shifts, hoes rising and falling sharply on the 
grey earth. Reaching the Melekhovs' garden 
Aksinya glanced around, then lifted the wattle 
hasp and opened the gate. She followed the 
path to the green stockade of sunflower stems. 
Stooping, she pressed into the midst of them, 


smothering her face with golden pollen, then 
gathered her skirt and sat down on the weed- 
woven ground. 

She listened: the silence rang in her ears. 
From somewhere above her came the lonely 
drone of a bee. For perhaps half an hour she 
sat thus, torturing herself with doubt. Would 
he come? She was about to go, and was ad- 
justing her kerchief, when the gate scraped 


"This way." 

"So you've come!" Rustling the leaves, Gri- 
gory approached and sat down at her side. 

"What's that on your cheek?" 

Aksinya smeared the fragrant golden dust 
with her sleeve. 

"Must be from the sunflowers." 

"There too, under your eye." 

She brushed it off. 

Their eyes met. And in reply to Grigory's 
mute inquiry, she broke into weeping. 

"I can't stand it. . . . I'm lost, Grisha." 

"What does he do?" 

Fiercely she tore open the collar of her 
blouse. The pink, girlishly swelling breasts were 
covered with cherry-blue bruises. 

"Don't you know? He beats me every day. 
He's sucking my blood. . . . And you're a fine 


one. . . . Soiled me like a dog, and off you 
go. . . . You're all. . . ." She buttoned her blouse 
with trembling fingers, and, frightened that 
he might be offended, glanced at his averted 

"So you're trying to put the blame on me?" 
he said slowly, biting a blade of grass. 

"And aren't you to blame?" she cried fiercely. 

"A dog doesn't worry an unwilling bitch." 
Aksinya hid her face in her hands. The insult 
struck home like a hard, calculated blow. 

Grigory frowned and glanced sidelong at 
her. A tear was trickling between her first and 
middle fingers. A broken dusty sunray gleamed 
on the transparent drop, and dried its 
damp trace on her skin. 

Grigory could not endure tears. He fidgeted 
impatiently, ruthlessly brushed a brown ant 
from his trousers, and glanced again at Aksi- 
nya. She hadn't moved; but three runnels of 
tears were now chasing down the back of her 

"What's the matter? Have I offended you? 
Aksinya! Now, wait! Stop, I want to say some- 

She tore her hands from her face. "I came 
here to get advice. What did you do it for? It's 
bitter enough as it is. And you. . . /' 


Grigory flushed with remorse. "Aksinya . . . 
I didn't mean to say that, don't take on," 

"I haven't come to fasten myself on you. 
You needn't be afraid." 

At that moment she really believed that she 
had not come to fasten herself on Grigory, but 
as she had run along by the Don she had 
vaguely thought: "I'll talk him round! He won't 
get married. Who else am I to live with?" Then 
she had remembered Stepan and had obstinately 
shaken her head to drive away the trou- 
blesome thought. 

"So our love is over?" Grigory asked, and 
turned on to his stomach, resting on one elbow 
and spitting out the rosy petals of the bindweed 
flower he had been chewing. 

"What do you mean-over?" Aksinya took 
alarm. "What do you mean?" she insisted, try- 
ing to look into his eyes. There was a gleam of 
bluish white as he turned them away. 

The dry, exhausted earth smelled of dust and 
sun. The wind rustled among the big green 
leaves. For a moment the sun was darkened, 
overcast with a fleeting cloud; and over the 
steppe, over the village, over Aksinya's moody 
head, over the pink cup of the bindweed flower, 
there fell a smoky shadow. 

Grigory sighed abruptly and lay on his back, 
pressing his shoulder-blades into the hot soil. 


"Listen, Aksinya!" he began slowly. "This is 
rotten somehow. . . . I've been thinking. . . ." 

From the vegetable patch came the creaking 
sound of a cart, and a woman's voice: "Gee up, 

To Aksinya the call seemed so close that she 
dropped flat on the ground. Raising his head, 
Grigory whispered: 

"Take your kerchief off. It shows up. . . . They 
might see us." 

She removed her kerchief. The burning breeze 
wandering among the sunflowers played with 
wisps of golden down on her neck. The noise 
of the cart slowly died away. 

"Well, this is what I've been thinking," Gri- 
gory began again. Then, more animatedly: 
"What's done can't be undone. Why try to 
fix the blame? Somehow we've got to go on 

Aksinya listened anxiously, breaking a stalk 
in her hand as she waited. She looked into Gri- 
gory's face and caught the dry and sober glitter 
of his eyes. 

"I've been thinking, let us put an end to . . ." 

Aksinya swayed. Her fingers clawed into the 
tough bindweed as she waited for the end of the 
sentence. A fire of terror and impatience avidly 
licked her face, her mouth went dry. She thought- 
he was about to say, "put an end to Stepan," but 


impatiently he licked his dry lips (they were 
working fiercely) and said: 

". . . put an end to this affair. Eh?" 

Aksinya stood up, and pressing through the 
swaying, yellow heads of the sunflowers, went 
towards the gate. 

"Aksinya!" Grigory called chokingly. 

The gate creaked heavily in reply. 


Immediately after the rye was cut, and before 
it could be carried to the barns, the wheat 
ripened. In the clayey fields and on the slopes the 
parched leaves turned yellow and curled up into 
tubes, and the stalks, having served their pur- 
pose, withered. 

Everybody boasted of the good harvest. The 
ears were full, the grain heavy and large. 

After talking the matter over with Ilyinichna, 
Pantelei decided that if the Korshunovs agreed 
to the match, the wedding could not take place 
before the 6th of August. He had not yet called 
on the Korshunovs for an answer: first the har- 
vesting had to be done, and then he had waited 
for a holiday. 

The Melekhovs began reaping on a Friday. 
Pantelei stripped the wagon and prepared the 

9—1933 129 

underframe for carrying the sheaves. Pyotr and 
Grigory went to the fields to reap. Pyotr rode 
and Grigory walked alongside. Grigory was 
moody, and the muscles worked between his 
lower jaw and his cheek-bones. Pyotr knew this 
to be a sure sign that his brother was seething 
and ready for a quarrel, but smiling under his 
wheaten moustache, he set to work to tease Gri- 

"God's truth, she told me herself!" 

"Well, what if she did?" Grigory muttered, 
chewing a hair of his moustache. 

" 'As I'm on my way back from town,' she 
says, 'I hear voices in the Melekhovs' sunflower 
patch.' " 

"Pyotr, stop it!" 

"Yes, voices. 'And I glance through the 
fence, . . .' " 

Grigory's eyelids quivered. "Will you stop 
it, or won't you?" 

"You're a queer lad! Let me finish!" 

"I warn you, Pyotr, we'll be fighting each 
other in a minute," Grigory threatened, falling 

Pyotr raised his eyebrows and turned round 
in his seat to face Grigory. 

" '. . .1 glance through the fence, and there I 
see them, the two lovers, lying in each other's 
arms!' she says. 'Who?' I asked, and she an- 


swers: "Why, Aksinya and your brother.' I 

say " 

Seizing the handle of a pitchfork lying at the 
back of the reaper, Grigory flung himself at his 
brother, Pyotr dropped the reins, leapt from 
his seat, and dodged in front of the horses. 

"Pah, the devil!" he exclaimed. "He's gone 
mad! Pah! Just look at him. . . ." 

Baring his teeth like a wolf, Grigory threw 
the pitchfork at his brother. Pyotr dropped tc 
his hands and knees, and flying over him the 
pitchfork buried its points a couple of inches 
into the earth and stuck upright, whanging and 

Scowling, Pyotr caught at the bridles of the 
startled horses and swore lustily: "You might 
have killed me, you swine!" 

"Yes, and I would have killed you!" 

"You're a fool, a mad devil. You're your 
father's son all right, a true Turk." 

Grigory pulled the pitchfork out of the 
ground and followed after the reaping ma- 
chine. Pyotr beckoned to him with his finger. 

"Come here! Give me that pitchfork." 

He passed the reins into his left hand, and 
took the pitchfork by the prongs. Then with 
the handle he struck Grigory across the back. 

"Ought to have taken a better swing," he 
grumbled, keeping his eyes on Grigory, who 

9* 131 

had leaped away. After a moment or two they 
lit cigarettes, stared into each other's eyes and 
burst out laughing. 

Christonya's wife, who was driving home 
along another road, had seen Grigory attack 
his brother. She stood up in her wagon but 
could not see what happened, for the Mele- 
khovs' reaping machine and horses were be- 
tween her and the brothers. Hardly had she 
reached the village street when she cried to 
a neighbour: 

"Klimovna! Run and tell Prokofyevich the 
Turk that his boys have been fighting with 
pitchforks close to the Tatar mound. Grigory 
jabbed Pyotr in the side with the fork, and 
then Pyotr gave him. . . . The blood poured out. 
It was horrible!" 

Pyotr had grown hoarse with bawling at the 
tired horses and was whistling instead, Grigory, 
his dust-blackened foot resting on the transom, 
was pitchforking the swathes off the reaper. 
The horses, bitten raw by the flies, swished 
their tails and pulled unwillingly. Reaping was 
in progress all over the steppe. The blades of 
the machines rattled and groaned, the steppe 
was dotted with swathes of corn. Mimicking the 
drivers, the marmots whistled on the hillocks. 
"Two more lengths, and we'll stop for a 
smoke!" Pyotr shouted above the noise of the 


machine. Grigory nodded. He could hardly open 
his parched lips. He gripped his pitchfork clos- 
er to the prongs in order to get a better lever- 
age on the heavy swathes, and breathed spas- 
modically. His dripping chest itched from 
sweat. From under his hat it poured down his 
face and stung his eyes like soap. Halting the 
horses, they had a drink and a smoke. 

"There's someone riding a horse pretty hard 
along the road," Pyotr remarked, shading his 
eyes with his palm. 

Grigory stared, and raised his eyebrows in 

"It looks like Father." 

"You're mad! What could he be riding? 
We've got both horses here." 

"It's him! God's truth, it's Father." 

The rider drew nearer, and after a moment 
he could be seen clearly. "Yes, it's Father!" 
Pyotr stamped about in anxious surprise. 

"Something's happened at home," Grigory 
gave expression to the thought troubling them 

When still a hundred yards away, Pantelei 
reined his horse in. "I'll thrash you, you sons 
of a bitch!" he yelled, waving his leather whip 
above his head. 

"What on earth...!" Pyotr was completely 


flabbergasted, and thrust half his moustache 
into his mouth. 

"Get on the other side of the reaper! By 
God, he'll lash us with that knout. While we're 
getting to the bottom of this business, he'll 
whip our guts out," Grigory said with a grin, 
putting the machine between himself and his 

The foaming horse came over the swathes of 
corn at a lumbering trot. His feet knocking 
against the horse's sides (for he was riding 
bareback), Pantelei shook his whip: "What 
have you been up to out here, you children of 
the devil?" 

"We've been reaping," Pyotr swept his arms 
around, nervously eyeing the whip. 

"Who's been sticking who with the fork? 
What have you been fighting about?" 

Turning his back on his father, Grigory be- 
gan counting the clouds in a whisper. 

"What fork? Who's been fighting?" Pyotr 
looked his father up and down. 

"Why, she came running to me, the daughter 
of a hen, shrieking: 'Your boys have stuck each 
other with pitchforks.' What do you say to 
that?" Pantelei shook his head excitedly and, 
dropping the reins, jumped off his horse. "I 
grabbed a horse and came out at a gallop. 


"Who told you all this?" 

"A woman!" 

"She was lying. Father. She must have been 
asleep in her wagon and dreamed it." 

"Women!" Pantelei half-shouted, half-whis- 
tled, slobbering down his beard. "That whore 
of Klimov's! My God! I'll whip the bitch!" he 
danced with rage. 

Shaking with silent laughter, Grigory stared 
at the ground. Pyotr, keeping his eyes fixed on 
his father, stroked his perspiring brow. 

Pantelei danced to his heart's content, and 
then calmed down. He took the seat of the reap- 
ing machine and reaped a couple of lengths, 
then mounted his horse and rode back to the 
village, leaving his whip forgotten on the 
ground. Pyotr picked it up and swung it ap- 
praisingly remarking to his brother: 

"We'd have had a bad time, young man. 
This isn't a whip! It would have maimed you. 
Brother, It could cut your head clean off." 


The Korshunovs had the reputation of being 
the richest family in the village of Tatarsky. 
They had fourteen pairs of bullocks, as well as 
horses, mares from the Provalsk stud farm, 
fifteen cows, innumerable other cattle, and a 


flock of several hundred sheep. Their house 
with its six rooms and iron roof was as good 
as that of Mokhov the merchant. The outhouses 
were roofed with new and handsome tiles. 
The garden and meadow covered a good three 
acres. What more could a man want? 

So it was rather timidly and with secret re- 
luctance that Pantelei had paid his first visit to 
the Korshunovs to propose the match. The 
Korshunovs could find a much richer husband 
than Grigory for their daughter. Pantelei knew 
this and was afraid of a refusal. He did not like 
to go begging to Korshunov, but Ilyinichna 
gnawed into him like rust into iron, and at last 
she overcame the old man's obstinacy. So 
finally he had visited the Korshunovs, heartily 
cursing Grigory and Ilyinichna and the whole 
wide world. Now it was time to go for an an- 
swer. They were only waiting for Sunday. 

Meanwhile, under the painted iron roof of 
the Korshunovs' house burning dissension had 
arisen. After the Melekhovs' departure Natalya 
declared to her mother: 

"I like Grigory, I'll never wed another." 

"She's found herself a bridegroom, the idiot," 
her father replied. "The only good thing about 
him is that he's as black as a gypsy. My little 
berry, I could find you a much better husband." 

"1 don't want any other. Father." The girl 


flushed and began to weep. "You can take me 
to the convent otherwise." 

"He's a woman-chaser, he runs after sol- 
diers' wives. The whole village knows it," her 
father played his last card. 

"Well, and let him!" 

"Well, if it's 'let him' for you, then it's all 
the same to me." 

Natalya, the eldest daughter, was her fa- 
ther's favourite, and he had not pressed her into 
a marriage. Proposals for her hand had been 
plentiful, some coming from distant villages, 
from rich, old-believer Cossacks. But Natalya 
had not taken to any of the prospective bride- 
grooms, and nothing had come of their efforts. 

In his heart, Miron liked Grigory for his Cos- 
sack ardour, his love of farming and hard work. 
He had picked him out among the crowd of 
village youths when Grigory had won the first 
prize in the horse races, but he thought it a 
little humiliating to give his daughter to a man 
who was not rich, especially one who had a bad 

"A hard-working lad and good-looking," his 
wife would whisper to him at night, stroking 
his freckled, hairy hand. "And Natalya is real- 
ly gone on him. . . ." 

Miron turned his back on his wife's cold, 
withered breast, and shouted angrily: 


"Get off, you burr! Marry her off to an idiot, 
what do I care? God has taken away your rea- 
son. Good-looking!" he mimicked. "Will you 
reap a harvest off his face?" 

"Harvests aren't everything. . . ." 

"What does it matter about his looks? If only 
he had some standing. I must admit it's a bit 
of a come-down for me to give my daughter to 
the Turks." 

"They're a hard-working family and comfort- 
ably off," his wife whispered, and moving 
closer to her husband's broad back, stroked his 
hand soothingly. 

"Hey, the devil! Get away, can't you? Leave 
me a little room! Why are you stroking me as 
if I were a cow with calf? And do as you please 
with Natalya. Marry her to a close-cropped girl 
if that suits you." 

"You should have some feeling for your 
child," she murmured into his ear. But Miron 
kicked, pressed himself against the wall 
and began to snore as though he had fallen 

The Melekhovs' arrival for an answer took 
the Korshunovs by surprise. They came just 
after matins. As Ilyinichna set her foot on the 
step of the wagonette she nearly overturned it, 
but Pantelei jumped down from the seat like 
a young cockerel. 


"There they are! What devil brought them 
here today?" Miron groaned, as he looked out 
of the window. 

"Oh dear, here I am just out of the kitchen. 
Haven't even had a chance to change my every- 
day skirt." 

"You'll do as you are. Nobody's thinking of 
marrying you, who wants you, you horse 

"You're a born ruffian and you've completely 
lost your senses in your old age." 

"Hold your tongue, woman!" 

"You might put on a clean shirt, your back- 
bone's showing through that one. Aren't you 
ashamed, you old devil?" his wife scolded, sur- 
veying her husband as the visitors walked 
across the yard. 

"Don't worry, they'll recognize me in what 
I'm wearing. They wouldn't refuse if I put on 

"Good health!" Pantelei crowed, stumbling 
over the door-step. He was at once abashed by 
the loudness of his own voice, and tried to 
mend matters by crossing himself twice over 
before the icon. 

"Good-day," Miron replied, staring at them 

"God is giving us good weather." 

"Praise be, and it's lasting." 


"The people will be a little better off for it." 

"That's so." 



"And so we've come, Miron Grigoryevich, 
to find out what you have decided among your- 
selves-whether we are to make a match of it 
or not." 

"Come in, please. Sit down, please," the 
mistress of the house welcomed them, bowing 
and sweeping the floor with the edge of her 
long, pleated skirt. 

Ilyinichna sat down, her poplin dress rus- 
tling. Miron Grigoryevich rested his elbows on 
the new oilcloth on the table, and was silent. 
An unpleasant smell of damp rubber and some- 
thing else came from the oilcloth. Its corners 
were adorned with pictures of the last tsar 
and tsaritsa, while in the centre were the 
august imperial princesses in white hats, and 
the fly-blown Tsar Nicholas II. 

Miron broke the silence. 

"Well . . . we've decided to give our daugh- 
ter. So we shall be kinsmen if we can agree on 
the dowry." 

At this point, from somewhere in the 
mysterious depths of her glossy, puff-sleeved 
jacket, as if from behind her back, Ilyinichna 
drew out a great loaf of white bread and placed 


it on the table. For some unknown reason 
Pantelei wanted to cross himself, but his 
gnarled claw-like fingers, though set to the 
appropriate sign and raised half the requisite 
distance, suddenly changed their form. Against 
its master's will the great black thumb slipped 
unexpectedly between the index and middle 
fingers, and this shameless bunch of fingers 
stealthily slipped behind the open edge of his 
blue overcoat and drev/ out a red-topped bottle. 

Blinking excitedly, Pantelei glanced at 
Miron's freckled face and caressingly slapped 
the bottom of the bottle with his broad, hoof- 
like palm. 

"And now, dear friends, we'll offer up a 
prayer to God and drink and talk of our 
children and the marriage agreement," he pro- 

Within an hour the two men were sitting so 
close together that the tar-black rings of Melek- 
hov's beard were mingled with the straight 
red strands of Korshunov's. Pantelei's breath 
smelt of pickled cucumbers as he argued 
over the amount of the marriage settlement. 

"My dear kinsman," he began in a hoarse 
whisper. "My dearest kinsman," he repeated, 
raising his voice to a shout. "Kinsman," he 
roared, baring his great, blunt teeth. "Your 
demands are far too heavy for me to stand. 


Think, dear kinsman, think how you are trying 
to rob me. Gaiters and goloshes, one; a fur 
coat, two; two woollen dresses, three; a silk 
kerchief, four. Why, it's ruination!" 

Pantelei stretched his arms wide till the 
seams of his tunic split. Miron lowered his 
head and stared at the oilcloth, flooded with 
spilt vodka and pickle. He read the inscription 
on the flowery scroll at the top. "The Russian 
Royal Family." He brought his eyes lower. 
"His Imperial Majesty and Sire, Emperor 
Nicholas. ..." A potato-skin lay over the rest. 
He stared at the picture. The emperor's features 
were invisible under an empty vodka bottle. 
Blinking reverently, Miron attempted to make 
out the style of the rich uniform with its white 
belt, but it was thickly covered with slippery 
cucumber seeds. The empress in a broad- 
brimmed hat stared up at him complacently, 
surrounded by the circle of insipid daughters. 
Miron felt so affronted that tears almost came 
to his eyes. "You look very proud now, like a 
goose staring out of a basket, but wait till you 
have to give your daughters away to be 
married, then I shall stare, and you'll flutter," 
he thought. 

Pantelei droned on into his ear like a great 
black bumble-bee. Korshunov raised his tear- 
fully misty eyes, and listened. 


"In order to make such a gift in exchange 
for your, and now we can say our, daughter- 
these gaiters and goloshes and fur coats-we 
shall have to drive a cow to the market and sell 

"And do you begrudge it?" Miron struck 
the table with his fist. 

"It isn't that I begrudge it. . . ." 

"Do you begrudge it?" 

"Wait, kinsman!" 

"And if you do begrudge it . . . the devil 
take you!" Miron swept his perspiring hand 
over the table and sent the glasses to the floor. 

"It will be your daughter who'll work for it." 

"Let her! But you must give the proper 
presents, otherwise there'll be no marriage!" 

"A cow sold from the yard!" Pantelei shook 
his head. 

"There has to be a gift. She's got plenty of 
clothes of her own, it's me you've got to show 
respect for if you've taken a fancy to her. That's 
our Cossack custom. That's how it was of old, 
and we stick to the old ways." 

"I will show my respect!" 

"Show your respect!" 

"I will show it!" 

"And let the youngsters work. We've worked, 
and we live as well as anybody. Let them do 
the same!" 


The two men's beards wove together colour- 
fully. They kissed and Pantelei began to eat a 
juiceless, shrivelled cucumber and wept with 
mixed, conflicting feelings. 

The women were sitting locked in an embrace 
on the chest, deafening each other with the 
cackle of their voices. Ilyinichna glowed with a 
cherry-coloured flush, Marya had turned green 
from the vodka, like a winter pear nipped by 
the frost. 

"You won't find a child like her anywhere 
else in the world. She'll be dutiful and obedient, 
and will never say a word to contradict you," 
said Marya. 

"My dear," Ilyinichna interrupted her, sup- 
porting her cheek with her left hand and hold- 
ing her left elbow in her right hand, "so I've 
told him, I don't know how many times, the 
son of a bitch. He was getting ready to go out 
the other Sunday evening, putting some 
tobacco in his pouch, and I said to him, 'When 
will you throw her over, you accursed heathen? 
How long have I got to go on standing this 
shame in my old age? That Stepan will stop 
your little game one fine day!' " 

Mitka stared into the room through the 
door crack, and below him Natalya's two 
younger sisters whispered to each other. 
Natalya herself was sitting in the farther room, 


wiping her tears on the tight sleeve of her 
blouse. She was afraid of the new life opening 
before her, oppressed by the unknown. 

In the front room the third bottle of vodka 
was finished; it was decided to bring the bride 
and bridegroom together on the first of August. 


The Korshunovs' house hummed like a bee- 
hive with the bustle of preparations for the 
wedding. Underclothes were hurriedly sewn 
for the bride. Natalya sat every evening knit- 
ting her bridegroom the traditional gloves and 
scarf of goat's wool. Her mother sat till dusk 
bent over a sev/ing-machine, helping the hired 
seamstress. When Mitka returned with his 
father and the farm-hands from the fields he 
did not stop to wash or pull off his heavy farm- 
ing boots, but went to keep Natalya compa- 
ny. He found great satisfaction in teasing his 

"Knitting?" he would ask briefly, nodding 
at the scarf. 

"Yes, what of it?" 

"Knit away, you idiot. Instead of being 
grateful to you, he'll break your jaw." 

"What for?" 

10—1933 tdfi 

"Oh, I know Grisha, he's a friend of mine. 
He's that sort, he'll bite and not say what it's 

"Don't tell lies. You think I don't know 

"But I know him better. We went to school 
together." Mitka would simulate a deep sigh, 
look at his scratched hands and bend his long 

"You'll be lost, Natalya, if you marry him. 
Better stay an old maid. What do you see in 
him anyhow? He's ugly enough to scare a 
horse. Stupid too. Just look at him a bit closer: 
he's a lousy fellow." 

Natalya would grow angry, choke back her 
tears, and bend a miserable face over the scarf. 

"But worst of all he's in love," Mitka went 
on mercilessly. "What are you grizzling for? 
You're a fool, Natalya! Throw him over! I'll 
saddle the horse and ride over and tell 
them. . . ." 

Natalya was rescued from Mitka by Grand- 
father Grishaka, who would come into the 
room, groping over the floor with his knobbly 
stick and stroking his hempen-yellow beard. 
Poking his stick into Mitka's side, he would 

"What are you doing here, you good-for- 
nothing, huh?" 


"I came to pay a visit. Grandad/' Mitka 
would reply apologetically. 

"To pay a visit? Well, I tell you to get out of 
here. Quick march!" The old man would lift 
his stick and approach Mitka on his shaky 
withered legs. 

Grandad Grishaka had walked the earth 
for sixty-nine years. He had taken part in the 
Turkish campaign of 1877, had been orderly 
to General Gurko, but had fallen into dis- 
favour and been sent back to his regiment. He 
had been awarded two crosses and the medal 
of St. George for distinction under fire at 
Plevna and Rossitz. And now, living with his 
son, enjoying the universal respect of the vil- 
lage for his lucidity of mind, his incorrupti- 
ble honesty and his hospitable ways, he was 
spending his few remaining years in remi- 

In the summer he sat from dawn till dusk 
on the earthen bank round the house, his head 
bowed, drawing his stick over the ground, 
while vague images and scraps of thought 
floated through his mind, dull gleams of 
memory amid the shadows of forgetfulness. 
The broken peak of his cap threw a dark shade 
over his closed eyes. The black blood flowed 
sluggishly through the fingers curved over his 
stick, through the swollen veins on his hands. 

10* 147 

His blood seemed to grow colder every year. 
He would complain to Natalya, his favourite 

"These socks are woollen, but they're not 
warm enough. You'd better crochet a pair for 
me, child." 

"But it's summer. Grandad!" Natalya would 
laugh, and, seating herself on the bank by his 
side, would look at his big wrinkled yellow 

"What of it, child? It's summer, but my 
blood is as cold as the earth deep below." 

Natalya looked at the network of veins on 
his hand and her mind flashed back to a day 
in her childhood. A well was being sunk in their 
yard, and she-still only a little girl-was taking 
clay out of the bucket and making heavy dolls, 
and cows with crumbling horns. She vividly 
recalled the feel of the lifeless icy earth, lifted 
up from a depth of thirty-five feet. And now, 
frightened, she stared at her grandfather's 
hands, covered with the brown clay-coloured 
freckles of old age. It seemed to her that dark, 
clayey earth was flowing in his veins instead 
of bright scarlet blood. 

"Are you afraid to die. Grandad?" Natalya 
would ask. 

The old man twisted his withered neck as 
though working it free of the stiff collar of his 


uniform coat, and shook his greenish-grey 

"I wait for death as I would for a dear guest. 
It's time-I've lived my days, I've served my 
tsars, and drunk vodka enough in my day," he 
replied showing his white teeth in a smile, his 
withered lids quivering. 

Natalya would stroke her grandfather's 
hand and leave him, still bowed, sitting 
hunched on the bank in his patched grey uni- 
form, scraping the earth with his stick, while 
the bright red tabs twinkled gaily and youth- 
fully in his stiff upright collar. 

He took the news of Natalya's approaching 
marriage with outward calm, but inwardly he 
grieved and was furious. At table Natalya 
always gave him the choicest pieces; she 
washed his linen, mended and knitted his 
stockings, his sharouari and shirts. And so, 
when the old man heard the news he gave her 
harsh, stern looks for a couple of days. 

"The Melekhovs are good Cossacks. The 
late Prokofy, a fine Cossack he was. But what 
are his grandsons like? Huh?" he asked Miron. 

"They're not so bad," Miron replied evasively. 

"That Grigory's a disrespectful lad. I was 
coming from church the other day and he 
passed me without a word of greeting. The old 
men don't get much respect these days. , . ." 


"He's a nice lad," Lukinichna put in a word 
for her future son-in-law. 

"Nice, you say? Oh well, so long as Nata- 
lya likes him. . . ." 

He took almost no part in the negotiations; 
he came out of the kitchen and sat down at 
the table for a moment or two, drank a glass 
of vodka, and then, feeling himself getting 
drunk, went off again. For two days he silently 
watched the happy Natalya, then seemed to 
soften in his attitude. 

"Natalya!" he called to her. "Well, my little 
grand-daughter, so you're very happy, huh?" 

"I don't rightly know myself. Grandad," 
Natalya confided. 

"Well, well! Christ be with you. God 
grant. . . ." And then he bitterly upbraided her. 
"Couldn't you have waited till I was dead, you 
little brat . . . my life will be bitter without 

Mitka was listening to their talk, and he 
remarked : 

"You're likely to live another hundred years. 
Grandfather. Is she to wait all that time? You're 
a fine one!" 

The old man turned almost purple with 
anger. He rapped on the ground with his stick 
and feet: 


"Clear off, you son of a bitch! Clear off, I say! 
You devil's demon! Who told you to listen?" 

Mitka ran out into the yard laughing. 

Old Grishaka raged for a long time after, 
cursing Mitka; his legs in their short woollen 
stockings trembled at the knees. 

Natalya's two little sisters-Marisha, a girl 
of twelve, and Grippa, an eight-year-old imp- 
waited impatiently for the wedding. 

The farm-hands employed by Korshunov 
were also quite pleased. They expected a lavish 
treat from their master and several days off. 

One of them-tall as a crane-a Ukrainian 
with the outlandish name of Het-Baba-went on 
a drinking spree about once every six months. 
He would drink away all his clothes as well as 
his wages. Although he had felt the familiar 
urge for a long time already, he had forced 
himself to delay the start of the drinking bout 
until the wedding. 

The second farm-hand-a thin swarthy Cos- 
sack, named Mikhei, had been with the Kor- 
shunovs only a short time. Ruined by a fire, he 
had become a labourer. Having struck up a 
friendship with Het-Baba he gradually took 
to drink. He was a great lover of horses. When 
he was drunk he would weep, his angular, 
browless face smeared with tears, and pester 
Miron Grigoryevich: 


"Master! Dear master! When you give your 
daughter away let me drive her horses. I'll 
show them some driving! I'll drive her through 
fire, and not a single hair on the horses will be 
burned. I myself once had horses. Oh. . . ." 

The grim, unsociable Het-Baba for some 
reason or other became attached to Mikhei 
and constantly tormented him with the same 
old joke about the name of his native village. 
He would always laugh hoarsely at his own 
stale joke and slap his long, dry shanks. 
Mikhei would look disgustedly at Het-Baba's 
clean-shaven face and quivering Adam's apple, 
and curse him. 

The wedding was to take place on the first 
day after Lent. Three weeks remained. On the 
Day of the Assumption Grigory came to visit 
his future bride. He sat at the round table in 
the best room, eating sunflower seeds and nuts 
with the bride's girl-friends, then drove away 
again. Natalya saw him off. In the lean-to shed, 
where his horse was standing saddled with a 
smart new saddle, she slipped her hand into 
her breast, and blushing, gazing at him with 
eyes that expressed her love, she thrust a soft 
little bundle, warm from her breast, into his 
hand. As he took the gift Grigory dazzled her 
with the whiteness of his wolfish teeth, and 


"What is it?" 

"You'll see. . . . I've embroidered you a 
tobacco pouch." 

Grigory irresolutely drew her towards him, 
wanting to kiss her; but she held him off for- 
cibly with her hands against his chest, leaned 
away from him, and turned her eyes apprehen- 
sively towards the window of the house. 

"They'll see us!" 

"Let them!" 

"I'm ashamed to!" 

"That's only at first," Grigory explained. 

Natalya held the reins while he mounted. 
Frowning, Grigory caught the stirrup with his 
foot, seated himself comfortably in the saddle 
and rode out of the yard. She opened the gate, 
and stood gazing after him. Grigory leaned 
over to the left in his saddle, Kalmyk fashion, 
waving his whip with a flourish. 

"Eleven more days," Natalya thought to 
herself and sighed and smiled. 


The green, sharp-leafed wheat breaks through 
the ground and grows; within a few weeks a 
rook can fly into its midst and not be seen. The 
com sucks the juices from the earth and comes 
to ear, then it flowers and the ears are pow- 


dered with a golden dust; the grain swells with 
sweet and scented milk. The farmer goes out 
into the steppe and stands gazing and is filled 
with joy. But then a herd of cattle stray into 
the corn; they tread the laden grain into the 
glebe. Round patches of crushed wheat are left 
where the cattle have lain; the farmer grows 
bitter and desperate at the sight. 

So with Aksinya. Grigory had trampled her 
feelings that had ripened to golden flower with 
his heavy, raw-hide sandals. He had sullied 
them, burned them to ash-and that was all. 

As she came back from the Melekhovs' 
sunflower patch Aksinya's spirit grew empty 
and wild, like a deserted farmyard overgrown 
with goose-grass and scrub. She walked along 
chewing the ends of her kerchief, and a cry 
swelled her throat. She entered the house and 
fell to the floor, choking with tears, with tor- 
ment, with the dreary emptiness that lashed 
through her head. But then it passed. The pierc- 
ing anguish was drawn down and exhausted at 
the bottom of her heart. 

The grain trampled by the cattle stands 
again. With the dew and the sun the trodden 
stalks arise; at first, bowed like a man under 
a too heavy burden, then erect, lifting their 
heads; and the day is day again and the wind 
still blows. 


At night, as she passionately caressed her 
husband, Aksinya thought of another, and 
hatred was mingled with a great love in her 
heart. The woman was planning fresh 
dishonour, fresh shame; she had made up 
her mind to take Grigory from the happy 
Natalya, who had known neither the bitterness 
nor the joy of love. She lay thinking over her 
plans at night, her dry eyes blinking in the 
darkness. Stepan's handsome head lay heavily 
on her right arm, his long wavy forelock awry. 
He breathed through his half-opened lips, his 
black, toil-roughened fingers caressing his 
wife's breast in forgetfulness. Aksinya lay 
thinking and planning, but only one thing could 
she resolve firmly: she would take Grigory from 
everybody else, she would flood him with love, 
she would possess him as before she had 
possessed him. But at the bottom of her heart 
a deep pain, like the sting left by a bee, re- 

During the day Aksinya drowned her 
thoughts in household duties and cares. She 
met Grigory occasionally, and would turn pale, 
proudly carrying her beautiful body that 
yearned so much for him, gazing shamelessly, 
challengingly into the black wilderness of his 


After each meeting Grigory was seized with 
yearning for her. He grew angry without cause, 
and poured out his wrath on Dunya and his 
mother, but most frequently he took his sabre, 
went out into the backyard and slashed away 
at stout twigs planted in the ground until he 
was bathed in perspiration. It made Pantelei 
curse : 

"The lousy devil, he's chopped up enough 
for a couple of fences. Go into the woods, if 
you must chop away. You wait, my lad! When 
you're called up for service, you'll have the 
chance to do it. That'll soon take it out of you!" 


Four gaily-decorated two-horse wagonettes 
were to drive to fetch the bride. A crowd 
of village folk in holiday attire thronged 
around them as they stood in the Melekhovs' 

Pyotr was the best man. He was dressed in 
a black frock-coat and blue striped trousers, 
his left arm was bound with two white ker- 
chiefs, and he wore a fixed scornful smile under 
his wheaten whiskers. 

"Don't be shy, Grigory!" he said to his 
brother. "Hold your head up like a young 
cock, don't get sulky!" 


Darya, as slender and supple as a willow 
branch, attired in a woollen, raspberry-coloured 
skirt, twitched the pencilled arches of her 
brows and gave Pyotr a nudge: 

"Tell Father it's time we were off. They're 
waiting for us." 

"Take your places," Pyotr ordered, after a 
whispered consultation with his father. "On 
my wagon, five and the bridegroom." They 
climbed into the wagonettes. Flushed and 
triumphant, Ilyinichna opened the gates. The 
four wagonettes chased after one another along 
the street. 

Pyotr sat at Grigory's side. Opposite them 
Darya waved a lace handkerchief. The ruts 
and bumps interi*upted the voices that had 
struck up a song. The crimson bands of the 
Cossack caps, the blue and black uniforms 
and frock-coats, the sleeves bound with white 
kerchiefs, the scattered rainbow of the women's 
kerchiefs, the gay skirts, and muslin trains of 
dust behind each wagonette made a colourful 

Grigory's second cousin, Anikei, drove the 
bridegroom's wagonette. Leaning forward over 
the tails of the horses, almost falling off his 
seat, he cracked his whip and whistled, and 
the perspiring horses pulled harder at the 
tautened traces. 


"Give it to 'em/' roared Pyotr. 

The moustacheless hawk-like Anikei winked 
at Grigory, wrinkled his hairless womanish 
face into a thin smile, gave a whistle and 
belaboured the horses with his whip. 

"Make way!" Ilya Ozhogin, the bride- 
groom's uncle on his mother's side, roared as 
he tried to overtake them with the second 
wagonette. Grigory recognized Dunya's sun- 
burnt face behind his uncle's back. 

"No, you don't!" Anikei shouted, jumping 
to his feet and emitting a piercing whistle. He 
whipped up the horses into a frenzied gallop. 
"You'll fall!" Darya exclaimed, encircling 
Anikei's patent leather top-boots with her arms. 
"Hold on!" Uncle Ilya called at their side, but 
his voice was lost in the continual groan and 
rattle of the wheels. 

The two other wagonettes, tightly packed 
with whooping men and women, drove along 
side by side. The horses with red, blue, and 
pink cloths on their backs, paper flowers and 
ribbons woven into their manes and forelocks, 
and bells on their harness, tore over the bumpy 
road, scattering flakes of soapy foam, and the 
cloths on their wet, lathered backs flapped and 
billowed in the wind. 

At the Korshunovs' gate a horde of village 
lads was on the look-out for the cavalcade. 


They saw the dust rising from the road and 
ran into the yard bawling: 

"They're coming!" "Here they are!" They 
surrounded Het-Baba who had just come out. 

"Why the crowd? Get away, you little devils. 
What a noise you make! I can't hear myself 

The children jumped around Het-Baba's 
wide baggy sharouari, shouting and poking 
fun at the Ukrainian. Het-Baba, his head bent 
as if he were peeping into a deep well, looked 
down at the frenzied children and scratched 
his firm long belly with an indulgent smile. 

The wagonettes came rattling up to the gate. 
Pyotr led Grigory to the steps, the others 
followed behind. 

The door from the porch to the kitchen was 
shut fast. Pyotr knocked. 

"Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us!" he 

"Amen!" came from the other side of the 

Pyotr repeated the words and the knock 
three times, each time receiving the same 

"May we come in?" 

"You are welcome." 

The door was thrown open. The parents' re- 
presentative, Natalya's godmother, a good- 


looking widow, greeted Pyotr with a curtsey 
and a thin raspberry-lipped smile. "Take this 
for your health's sake, best man!" she said, 
handing him a glass of cloudy, over-fresh 
kvass. Pyotr smoothed his whiskers, drank it 
down, and spluttered amid a general restrained 
laugh: "Well, you've made me welcome! You 
wait, my blackberry, wait till I treat you. I'll 
make you pay for it." 

While the best man and Natalya's godmother 
were competing in a duel of wits, the relatives 
of the bridegroom were brought three glasses 
of vodka each, in accordance with the marriage 

Natalya, already attired in her wedding 
dress and veil, sat at the table, guarded by her 
two sisters. Marishka held a rolling pin in her 
outstretched hand, and Grippa, a challenging 
fervour in her eyes, brandished a mixing spoon. 
Sweating, and slightly tipsy with vodka, Pyotr 
bowed and offered them a fifty-kopeck piece in 
his glass. But Marishka struck the table with 
her rolling pin, 

"Not enough! We shan't sell the bride!" 

Once more Pyotr offered them some small 
silver in the glass: 

"We won't let you have her!" the sisters 
raged, elbowing the downcast Natalya. 


"Here, what's all this? We've already paid 
and overpaid." 

"Give way, girls!" Miron ordered, and 
smilingly pressed towards the table. His ruddy 
hair, smeared with melted butter, smelt of 
sweat and dung. At this signal the bride's rel- 
atives and friends seated round the table 
stood up and made room for the newcomers. 

Pyotr thrust the end of a handkerchief into 
Grigory's hand, jumped on to a bench, and 
led him to the bride, who had seated herself 
under the icons. Natalya took the other end of 
the handkerchief in her moist and agitated hand. 

There was a champing of teeth around the 
table. The guests tore the boiled chicken apart 
with their hands, afterwards wiping them on 
their hair. As Anikei chewed at a breast bone 
the yellow fat ran down his bare chin on to 
his collar. 

Feeling sorry for himself, Grigory stared 
first at his own and Natalya's spoons tied 
together in the handkerchief, then at the noo- 
dles steaming in a bowl. He badly wanted to 
eat; his stomach was rolling over with hunger. 

Dar^'^a was helping herself. Uncle Ilya who 
sat next to her, nibbling at a rib of mutton 
with his large teeth, was evidently whispering 
improprieties to her, for she screwed up her 
eyes and lifted her brows, blushing and giggling. 

11—1933 161 

The guests ate long and heartily. The reek 
of resinous masculine sweat mingled with the 
more caustic and spicy scent of the women. The 
skirts, frock-coats and shawls that had for long 
been packed away in chests, smelled of moth- 
balls and something else, heavy and cloying, 
like an old woman's much-used honey pot. 

Grigory glanced sidelong at Natalya. And 
for the first time he noticed that her upper lip 
was swollen, and hung like the peak of a cap 
over her underlip. He also noticed that on the 
right cheek, below the cheek-bone, was a 
brown mole, and that two golden hairs were 
growing out of the mole; and for some reason 
this irritated him. He recalled Aksinya's slender 
neck with its curly, fluffy locks, and he had 
the feeling that someone had dropped a 
handful of prickly hay down his sweating back. 
He bristled, and with a suppressed feeling of 
wretchedness watched the others munching, 
chewing and smacking their lips. 

When they got up from the table someone, 
breathing stewed fruit-juice and the sour 
scent of wheaten bread over him, poured a 
handful of millet down the leg of his boot in 
order to protect him against the evil eye. All 
the way back to his own house the millet hurt 
his feet; the tight collar band of his shirt 


choked him, and under the depressing influence 
of the marriage rites, in a cold, desperate fury 
Grigory muttered curses to himself. 


By the time they reached the Melekhovs' 
yard, the horses, though they had rested a bit 
at the Korshunovs, were exhausted. Their 
harnesses were spattered with foam. But the 
drunken drivers urged them on ruthlessly. 

The procession was met by the old Mele- 
khovs. Pantelei, his silver-inlaid black beard 
glistening, held the icon, and his wife stood 
at his side, her thin lips set stonily. 

Amid a shower of hops and wheat grain 
Grigory and Natalya approached them to 
receive their blessing. As he blessed them a 
tear ran down Pantelei's face, and he frowned 
and fidgeted, annoyed that anyone should be 
witness of his frailty. 

The bride and bridegroom went into the 
house. Darya, red from the vodka, the ride, and 
the sun, dashed out on to the steps and pounced 
on Dunya. 

"Where's Pyotr?" 

"I haven't seen him!" 

"He ought to go for the priest, and he's 
nowhere to be found, curse him!" 

11* 163 

She found Pyotr, who had drunk more vodka 
than was good for him, lying in a cart, groan- 
ing. She swooped on him like a kite. "You've 
had too much, you heathen! Get up and run for 
the priest!" 

"Clear off! I don't know you. Who are you 
ordering about?" Pyotr protested, scrabbling 
about in the straw and fowls' dung. 

With tears in her eyes Darya thrust two 
fingers into his mouth, gripped his lolling 
tongue, and helped him to ease himself. Then 
she poured a pitcher of cold well-water over 
his head, wiped him dry with the horse blanket 
and took him to the priest. 

Less than an hour later Grigory was stand- 
ing at Natalya's side in the church, clutching 
a wax candle in his hand, his eyes wandering 
over the wall of whispering people round him, 
and repeating to himself four words that would 
not leave his head: "You've had your fling!" 
Behind him the puffy-faced Pyotr coughed. 
Somewhere in the crowd he saw Dunya's eyes 
twinkling; he thought he recognized other 
faces. He heard the dissonant chorus of voices 
and the droning responses of the deacon. He 
was fettered with apathy. He followed Father 
Vissarion round the lectern, treading on the 
heels of the priest's battered boots; he halted 
when Pyotr gave a gentle tug at his frock-coat. 


He stared at the flickering little tongues of 
candleflame, and struggled with the sleepy tor- 
por which had taken possession of him. 

"Exchange rings!" said Father Vissarion, 
giving Grigory a lukewarm smile. 

They obeyed. "Will it be over soon?" 
Grigory mutely asked, as he caught Pyotr's 
glance. And the corners of Pyotr's lips twitched, 
stifling a smile. "Soon now." Then Grigory 
kissed his wife's moist, insipid lips three times, 
the church began to smell foully of extinguished 
candles, and the crowd pressed towards the door. 

Holding Natalya's large, rough hand in his, 
Grigory went out into the porch. Someone 
clapped his hat on his head. A warm breeze 
from the east brought the scent of wormwood 
to his nostrils. The cool of evening came from 
the steppe. Lightning flickered beyond the 
Don, rain was coming; outside the white 
church fence, above the hum of voices he heard 
the gentle inviting tinkle of the bells on the 
restive horses. 


The Korshunovs did not arrive at the 
Melekhovs' house until after the bride and 
bridegroom had gone to the church. Several 
times Pantelei went to the gate to see whether 


they were coming, but the grey road, lined with 
a growth of prickly thorns, was completely 
deserted. He shifted his eyes towards the Don. 
The forest was turning a golden yellow. The 
ripened reeds bent wearily over the Don-side 
marshes. Blending with the dusk, the sad blue 
drowsiness of early autumn enwrapped the 
village, the Don, the chalky ridge of hills, the 
forest lurking in a lilac mist beyond the river, 
and the steppe. At the cross-roads the sharp 
outline of the wayside cross was silhouetted 
against the sky. 

Pantelei's ears caught the scarcely audible 
sound of wheels and the yapping of dogs. Two 
wagonettes turned out of the square into the 
street. In the first sat Miron with his wife at 
his side; opposite them was Grandad Grishaka 
in a new uniform, wearing his Cross of 
St. George and his medals. Mitka drove, sit- 
ting carelessly on the box, and not troubling 
to show the foaming horses his whip. In the 
second wagonette, Mikhei, leaning backward, 
tugged at the reins, trying to reduce the horses' 
gallop to a trot. His angular browless face 
was scarlet, sweat was streaming down from 
under the broken peak of his cap. 

Pantelei threw open the gate, and the two 
wagonettes drove into the yard. Ilyinichna 


sailed down from the porch, the hem of her 
dress trailing in the dust. 

"Welcome, dear friends! Do our poor house 
the honour of entering." She bent her corpulent 
waist in a bow. 

His head on one side, Pantelei flung open 
his arms and welcomed them: "We humbly 
invite you to come in!" 

He called for the horses to be unharnessed 
and went up to the father of his daughter-in- 
law. Miron brushed his sharovari with his 
hand to get the dust off them. Old Grishaka, 
shaken up by the wild ride, lagged behind. 

"Come in, come in, my dears!" Ilyinichna 

"Thank you, we're just coming." 

"We've been waiting for you, do come in. 
I'll bring a besom for you to brush your uni- 
form with. There's so much dust about at this 
time of the year, it's hard to breathe." 

"Yes, indeed, it's very dry. . . , That's what 
makes the dust. . . . Don't trouble yourself, my 
dear, I'll just. . . ." Bowing to his slow-witted 
hostess, old Grishaka backed away towards 
the bam and took refuge behind a painted 
winnowing machine. 

"Can't you leave the old man alone, you 
fool!" Pantelei snorted, intercepting his wife 
on the steps. "He wants to do something, 


and you keep. . . . Where are your brains, 

"How should I know?" Ilyinichna protested 
blushing. "You ought to guess. Never mind, 
take the guests to table." 

The bride's family were taken into the best 
room, where a crowd of already half-intoxicat- 
ed guests was sitting round the table. Soon 
after their arrival the newly-married couple 
returned from the church. As they entered 
Pantelei filled the glasses from a half-gallon 
bottle, tears standing in his eyes. 

"Well, Miron Grigoryevich, here's to our 
children! May their life be filled with good, as 
ours has been. May they live happily, and 
enjoy the best of health." 

They poured Grandfather Grishaka a large 
glass of vodka, and succeeded in sending half 
of it into his beard-mildewed mouth and half 
down the stiff collar of his uniform. Glasses 
were clinked together. The company drank and 
drank. The hubbub was like the noise of a 
market. A distant relation of the Korshunovs, 
Nikifor Koloveidin, who was sitting at the far 
end of the table, raised his glass and roared 
the traditional words: 

"It's bitter!" 

"Bitter! Bitter!" the guests seated around 
the table clamoured after him. 


"Oh, bitter!" came the response from the 
crowded kitchen. 

Scowling, Grigory kissed his wife's insipid 
lips and sent a hunted glance round the room. 
A crimson fever of faces. Coarse, drunkenly 
muddy glances and smiles. Mouths chewing 
greedily, slobbering on the embroidered 
tablecloth. A howl of voices. 

Koloveidin opened wide his gap-toothed 

"It's bitter!" the long-service badges on the 
sleeve of his blue Guards uniform wrinkled as 
he raised his glass. 

"Bitter!" the cry was taken up once more. 

Grigory stared with hatred into Koloveidin's 
mouth and noticed the livid tongue between 
his teeth as he cried, "Bitter!" 

"Kiss, little chicks!" Pyotr spluttered, twitch- 
ing his vodka-soaked moustache. 

In the kitchen Darya, flushed and intoxicated, 
began a song. It was taken up by the others 
and passed into the best room. The voices 
blended, but above all the rest rose Christonya's 
rumble, shaking the window-panes. 

The song ended and eating was resumed. 

"Here's to a good time, good people...!" 

"Try this mutton!" 

"Take your paw away, my husband's look- 


"Bitter! Bitter!" 

"No, I don't want any of your mutton. May- 
be I like sterlet better. Yes, I do . . . it's juicy.'' 

"Cousin Proshka, let's have another one." 

"Ah, that warms the cockles of your 
heart. . . ." 

In the kitchen the floor groaned and shook, 
heels clattered, and a glass fell to the floor, 
but the crash was lost in the general uproar. 
Across the heads of those sitting at the table 
Grigory glanced into the kitchen. The women 
were dancing now, to the accompaniment of 
shouts and whistles. They shook their ample 
bottoms (there was not a thin one there, for 
each was wearing five or six skirts), waved 
lace handkerchiefs, and worked their elbows 
in the dance. 

The grating notes of the accordion sounded 
imperatively. The player began the tune of the 
Cossack dance. A shout went up: 

"A circle! Form a circle!" 

"Squeeze up a bit!" Pyotr begged, pushing 
the perspiring women aside. 

Grigory roused himself and winked at 

"Pyotr's going to dance the 'Cossack'! You 
watch him!" 

"Who with?" 

"Don't you see? With your mother." 


Marya Lukinichna set her arms akimbo, her 
handkerchief in her left hand. Pyotr went up 
to her with mincing steps, cut a fine caper and 
retreated to his place. Lukinichna picked up 
her skirt as though about to step over a puddle, 
picked out the rhythm with her toe, and danced 
amid a roar of approbation, kicking out her 
legs like a man. 

The accordion player rushed out a volley of 
low notes that swept Pyotr into action, and 
with a shout he dropped to a squatting position 
and danced round, smacking the palms of his 
hands against the legs of his boots and biting 
the tip of his moustache in the corner of his 
mouth. He swung his feet in and out at great 
speed; his damp forelock tossed wildly on his 
head, but could not keep up with his feet. 

Grigory's view was blocked by the crowd 
at the door. He heard only the shouts of the 
drunken guests and the drumming of iron- 
shod heels, like the crackle of a burning pine- 

Then Miron danced with Ilyinichna; he 
stepped out seriously and with his accustomed 
businesslike air. Pantelei stood on a stool to 
watch them, dangling his lame leg and click- 
ing his tongue. Instead of his legs his lips and 
ear-ring danced. 

The dance was taken up by experts and by 


others who could not even bend a leg proper- 
ly. All of them were shouted at: 

"Go it!" 

"Smaller steps! Oh, you. . . \" 

"His legs are light enough, but his bottom 
gets in his way." 

"Oh, get on with it!" 

"Our side's winning." 

"Come on!" 

"Tired, are you? I'll crack a bottle over your 
head if you don't dance." 

Grandfather Grishaka was completely drunk. 
He embraced the bony back of his neighbour 
on the bench, and buzzed like a mosquito in 
his ear: 

"What year did you first see service?" 

His neighbour, an old man bent like an 
ancient oak, replied: 

"1839, my son!" 

"When?" Grishaka stuck out his ear. 

"1839, I told you." 

"What's your name? What regiment did you 
serve in?" 

"Maxim Bogatiryov. I was corporal in 
Baklanov's regiment." 

"Are you related to the Melekhovs?" 


"I asked, are you related?" 


"Uh-huh! I'm the bridegroom's grandfather 
on his mother's side." 

"In Baklanov's regiment, did you say?" 

The old man, vainly munching a piece of 
bread with his toothless gums, gazed at 
Grishaka with faded eyes, and nodded. 

"So you must have been through the 
Caucasian campaign?" 

"I served under Baklanov himself, may he 
rest in heaven, helped to conquer the Caucasus. 
We had some rare Cossacks in our regiment. 
They were as tall as the guards, though they 
weren't so straight. Great, long-armed, broad- 
shouldered fellows, not like the ones nowadays. 
That's the men we had, my son! His excellency 
the late general was good enough to give me 
the cat for stealing a carpet. . . ." 

"And I was in the Turkish campaign. Eh? 
Yes, I was there." 

Old Grishaka puffed out his sunken chest 
jingling with medals. 

"We took a village at dawn, and at mid-day 
the bugler sounded the alarm." 

"We were fighting around Rossitz and our 
regiment, the Twelfth Don Cossack, was 
engaged with the janissaries." 

"The bugler sounded that alarm. . . ." 

"Yes," Grishaka went on, beginning to get 
annoyed and angrily waving his hand. "The 


Turkish janissaries serve their tsar and wear 
white sacks on their heads. Huh? White sacks 
on their heads." 

", . . The bugler sounded the alarm, and I 
said to my comrade: 'We'll have to retreat, 
Timofei, but first we'll have that carpet off the 
wall.' " 

"I have been decorated with two Georges, 
awarded for heroism under fire. I took a 
Turkish major alive." Grandfather Grishaka 
began to weep and to bang his withered fist on 
his neighbour's spine. But the latter, dipping 
a piece of chicken in the cherry jelly, lifeless- 
ly stared at the soiled tablecloth and mumbled: 

"And just listen to what sin the evil spirit 
led me into, my son!" The old man's eyes 
stared fixedly at the white creases of the 
tablecloth as if they saw not a tablecloth 
soaked in vodka and soup but the dazzling 
snowy folds of the Caucasian mountains. "I'd 
never before taken anything that wasn't mine, 
but now I happened to see that carpet, and I 
thought, 'That would make a good horsecloth.' " 

"I've seen those parts myself. I've been in 
lands across the sea as well," Grishaka tried 
to look his neighbour in the eyes, but the deep 
sockets were overgrown with shaggy thickets 
of eyebrows and beard. So he resorted to 
craft. He wanted to win his neighbour's atten- 


tion for the climax of his story, and he plunged 
into the middle of it without any preliminaries: 
"And the captain gives the order: 'In troop 
columns at the gallop! Forward!'" 

But the old Baklanov regiment Cossack 
threw back his head like a charger at the sound 
of the trumpet and, dropping his fist on the 
table, whispered: 

"Lances at the ready! Draw sabres, Bakla- 
nov's men!" His voice suddenly grew stronger, 
his faded eyes glittered and blazed. "Baklanov's 
boys!" he roared, opening wide his toothless 
yellow jaws. "Into attack-forward!" 

And he gazed at Grishaka with a youthful 
and intelligent look, and let the tears trickling 
over his beard fall unwiped. 

Grishaka also grew excited: 

"He gave us this command, and waved his 
sword. We galloped forward, and the janis- 
saries were drawn up like this," he drew a 
square on the tablecloth with a shaky finger, 
"and firing at us. Twice we charged them. 
Each time they beat us back. Whenever we 
tried, their cavalry came out of a little wood 
on their flank. So our troop commander gave 
the order and we turned and went at them. 
We smashed them. Rode them down. What 
cavalry in the world can stand up against 
Cossacks? They fled into the wood. I saw 


their officer just in front of me, riding on a 
bay. A good-looking officer, black whiskers 
he had. He looked back at me and drew his 
pistol. Bang! But he missed me. I spurred my 
horse and caught up with him. I was going to 
cut him down, but then I thought better of it. 
After all, he was a man too. So I grabbed him 
round the waist with my right arm, and he 
flew out of the saddle. He bit my arm, but I 
took him all the same. . . ." 

Grishaka glanced triumphantly at his neigh- 
bour, but the old man's great angular head had 
fallen on to his chest, and he was snoring 



ergei Platonovich Mokhov 
could trace his ancestry 
a long way back. 

During the reign of Peter the First a state 
barge had been travelling down the Don to 
Azov with a cargo of biscuit and gunpowder. 
The Cossacks of the little rebel town of Chigo- 
naki, nestling on the bank of the upper Don, 
fell on the barge by night, destroyed the sleepy 
guards, pillaged the biscuit and gunpowder and 
sank the vessel. 

The tsar ordered out soldiers from Voronezh, 
and they burned down the town of Chigonaki, 
ruthlessly put the guilty Cossacks to the 
sword, and hanged forty of them on a floating 
gallows, which, as warning to the unruly vil- 
lages, was sent sailing down the Don. 

12—1933 m 

Some ten years later the spot where the 
hearths of the Chigonaki huts had smoked 
began again to be inhabited by Cossack set- 
tlers and those who had survived the sacking. 
The stanitsa grew up again with defensive 
ramparts round it. At the same time, a secret 
agent of the tsar, a Russian peasant named 
Mokhov, was sent to Chigonaki from Voronezh. 
He traded in knife-hafts, tobacco, flints, and 
the other odds and ends necessary to the Cos- 
sacks' everyday life. He bought up and resold 
stolen goods, and twice a year journeyed to 
Voronezh, ostensibly to replenish his stocks, 
but in reality to report to the authorities that 
the stanitsa was for the time being quiet and 
the Cossacks were not contemplating any fresh 

It was from this Russian peasant Nikita 
Mokhov that the merchant family of Mokhovs 
was descended. They took deep root in the 
Cossack earth; they multiplied and grew into 
the district like sturdy roadside weeds, rev- 
erently preserving the half-rotten credentials 
given to their ancestor by the governor of 
Voronezh. The credentials might have been 
preserved until this day had they not been 
burned in their wooden box behind the icon 
during a great fire which occurred in the life- 
time of Sergei Mokhov's grandfather. This 


Mokhov had already ruined himself once by 
card-playing, but was getting on to his feet 
again when the fire engulfed everything. After 
burying his paralytic father, Sergei had to 
begin afresh, starting by buying bristles and 
feathers. For five years he lived miserably, 
swindling and squeezing the Cossacks of the 
district out of every kopeck, then he suddenly 
jumped from "peddler Seryozhka" to "Sergei 
Platonovich," opened a little drapery shop, 
married the daughter of a half-demented priest, 
from whom he got a sizeable dowry, and set 
up as a linen draper. Sergei Platonovich began 
to trade in textiles at just the right moment. 
On the instructions of the army authorities, 
about this time the Cossacks were migrating in 
entire villages from the left bank of the Don, 
where the ground was unproductive and sandy, 
to the right bank. Buildings sprang up 
round the young stanitsa of Krasnokutskaya; 
new villages hatched out on the edge of former 
estates, on the banks of the rivers Chir, 
Chomaya and Frolovka, and over valleys and 
ravines in the steppe, side by side with Ukrain- 
ian settlements. And instead of having to 
journey fifty versts or more for goods they 
found Sergei Mokhov's shop, its fresh deal 
shelves packed with attractive commodities, 
right on the spot. Sergei flung his business 

12* 179 

wide, like a full-size accordion, and traded in 
everything requisite to simple village life- 
hides, salt, kerosene, haberdashery. He even 
began to supply agricultural machinery. Reap- 
ers, seeders, ploughs, winnowers from the 
Aksaisk factory were drawn up in neat order 
outside the shop, whose cool green shutters 
kept it well protected from the summer's heat. 
It is hard to count the money in another's purse, 
but it seems that the quick-witted Sergei's 
trading yielded him considerable profit, for 
within three years he had opened a grain ele- 
vator, and the following year after the death 
of his first wife he began the construction of a 
steam flour-mill. 

He squeezed Tatarsky and the neighbouring 
villages tightly in his swarthy fist with its 
sparse covering of glossy black hairs. There 
was not a home that was not in debt to Sergei 
Mokhov: a green slip with an orange border 
saying that a reaper had been given on credit 
to so-and-so, a bride's outfit for the daughter 
to someone else (time to marry the girl off and 
the Paramonovo elevator was cutting its prices 
on wheat-"Put it on my account, Mokhov"), 
and so it went on. Nine hands were employed 
at the mill, seven in the shop, and four la- 
bourers: altogether twenty mouths dependent 
on the merchant's pleasure for their daily bread. 


He had two children by his first wife: the girl 
Liza and a boy two years younger, the sluggish, 
scrofulous Vladimir. His second wife, Anna, a 
dry, sharp-nosed creature, was childless. All 
her belated mother-love and accumulated spleen 
(she had not married until the age of thirty- 
four) were poured out on the children. Her nerv- 
ous temperament had a bad influence on 
them, and their father paid them no more 
attention than he gave his stable-hand or cook. 
His business activities occupied all his time. 
The children grew up uncontrolled. His insen- 
sitive wife made no attempt to penetrate into 
the secrets of the child mind, the affairs of her 
large household took too much of her time, and 
the brother and sister grew up alien to each 
other, different in character, as though they 
were not related. Vladimir was sullen, sluggish, 
with a sly look and unchildish seriousness. 
Liza, who lived in the society of the maid and 
the cook (the latter a dissolute, much too ex- 
perienced woman), early saw the seamy side of 
life. The women aroused an unhealthy curi- 
osity in her, and while still an angular and bash- 
ful adolescent, left to her own devices, she had 
grown as wild as the true-love flower in the 

The unhurrying years flowed by. The old 
girew older and the young grew green of leaf, 


One evening Sergei Platonovich glanced at 
his daughter across the tea-table, and was 
startled, Liza, who had just left high school, 
had grown into a slender good-looking girl. He 
looked at her and the saucer filled with amber- 
coloured tea trembled in his hand. How like 
her mother she was! God, her very image! 
"Liza, turn your head sideways!" He had never 
before noticed how amazingly his daughter 
resembled her mother. 

Vladimir Mokhov, a narrow-chested, sickly- 
yellow lad now in the fifth form at school, was 
walking through the mill yard. He and his 
sister had recently returned home for the sum- 
mer vacation, and, as usual, he had gone along 
to look at the mill, jostle among the flour- 
sprinkled crowd and listen to the steady rum- 
ble of cog-wheels and rollers, and the hiss of 
whirling belts. It ministered to his vanity to 
hear the respectful murmur of the Cossack 
customers: "The master's heir. . . ." 

Carefully picking his way among the wagons 
and the heaps of dung, Vladimir reached the 
gate. Then he remembered he had not been 
to see the engine room, and turned back. 

Close to the red oil-tank, at the entrance to 
the engine room, the mill-hand Timofei, a 
scalesman nicknamed "Knave," and Timofei's 


assistant David were kneading a great ring of 
clay with bare feet, their trousers rolled up 
above their knees. 

"Ah! The master!" the scalesman greeted 
him jokingly, 

"Good-afternoon. What are you doing?" 

"Mixing clay," David said with an unpleas- 
ant smile, dragging his feet out of the clinging 
mass, which smelled of dung. "Your father's 
careful of the rubles, and won't hire women to 
do it. Your father's a screw, that he is," he 
added, making a squelching noise with his feet. 

Vladimir flushed. He felt an unconquerable 
dislike for the ever-smiling David and his 
contemptuous tone, even for his white teeth. 

"What do you mean, 'a screw'?" 

"He's terribly mean, he'd eat his own dirt if 
it paid him," David explained with a smile. 

The others laughed approvingly. Vladimir 
felt all the smart of the insult. He stared cold- 
ly at David. 

"So you're . . , dissatisfied?" 

"Come into this mess and mix it yourself, 
and then you'll know. What fool would be 
satisfied? It would do your father good to do 
some of this. Take some of the fat off his 
belly," David replied. He trod heavily around 
the ring of clay, kneading it with his feet, now 
smiling gaily. Foretasting a sweet revenge, 


Vladimir turned over a fitting reply in his 

"Good!" he said slowly. "I'll tell Papa you're 
not satisfied with your work." 

He glanced sidelong at the man's face, and 
was startled by the impression he had caused. 
David's lips were twisted in a forced pitiful 
smile, and the faces of the others were cloud- 
ed over. All three went on kneading the clay 
for a moment in silence. Then David tore his 
eyes away from his muddy feet, and said in a 
wheedling, bitter tone: "I was only joking, 

"I'll tell Papa what you said." With tears of 
injury in his eyes for his father and himself, 
and for David's miserable smile, Vladimir 
walked away. 

"Volodya! Vladimir Sergeyevich !" David 
called after him in alarm, and stepped out of 
the clay, letting his trousers fall over his be- 
spattered legs. 

Vladimir halted. David ran to him breathing 

"Don't tell your father! Forgive me, fool that 
I am. Honest to God, I just said it to tease 

"All right, I won't tell him," Vladimir replied 
with a grimace, and walked on towards the gate. 
Pity for David had won. He walked along by 


the white fence with a feeling of relief. From 
the forge in the corner of the mill-yard, the 
cheerful tapping of a hammer could be heard, 
now soft and muffled as it struck the iron, now 
a hard and ringing double tap on the anvil. 

"What did you want to say that for?" 
Knave's deep voice reached his ears. "Don't 
stir dung, and it won't stink." 

"The swine!" Vladimir thought indignantly. 
"So he answers back. . . , Shall I tell Father or 
not?" Glancing back, he saw David wearing 
his everlasting smile, and decided: "I'll tell!" 

A horse and wagon stood hitched to a post 
outside the shop. Children were chasing a twit- 
tering grey cloud of sparrows off the roof of 
the fire-house. From the verandah came the 
sonorous baritone of the student Boyarishkin, 
and another voice-cracked and husky. 

Vladimir went up the steps of the house. 
The leaves of the wild vine grew thickly over 
the porch and verandah and hung in foaming 
green bunches from the carved blue-painted 

Boyarishkin was shaking his blue-shaven 
head and addressing the teacher Balanda, a 
young man but already bearded. 

"When I read him, despite the fact that I'm 
the son of a toiling Cossack and naturally hate 
all privileged classes, just imagine it, I feel an 


acute pity for that moribund section of so- 
ciety. I nearly turn into a nobleman and land- 
lord myself, I study their ideal woman with 
rapture. I even take their interests to heart, 
damn it! Yes, my friend, that's what a genius 
can do. He can even make you change your 

Balanda toyed with the tassel of his silk 
sash and examined the red embroidery on the 
hem of his shirt, smiling ironically. Liza lay 
back in the armchair. The conversation 
evidently did not interest her in the least. With 
eyes that always seemed to be looking for 
something they had lost she was staring 
aimlessly at Boyarishkin's blue, razor-scratched 

Bowing to them, Vladimir went to his fa- 
ther's private room and knocked. Sergei Plato- 
novich was sitting on a cool leather couch, turn- 
ing over the pages of the June issue of Rus- 
skoye Bogatstvo. A yellowed bone paper-knife 
lay at his feet. 

"Well, what do you want?" 

Vladimir hunched his shoulders slightly and 
straightened the folds of his shirt. 

"As I was coming back from the mill," 
Vladimir began uncertainly. But then he re- 
called David's dazzling smile, and gazing at his 
father's corpulent belly in its tussore waist- 


coat, he resolutely continued: "I heard David, 
the mill-hand, say. . . ." 

Sergei Platonovich listened attentively to his 
son's story, and said: "I'll sack him. You may 
go." Then he bent with a groan to pick up the 

In the evenings the intelligentsia of the vil- 
lage were in the habit of gathering at Sergei 
Mokhov's house. There was Boyarishkin, a stu- 
dent of the Moscow Technical School; the puny 
teacher Balanda, eaten up with conceit and tu- 
berculosis; his cohabitant the teacher Marfa, 
a shapely girl whose petticoat always showed 
indecently, and who never seemed to grow any 
older; and the postmaster, an eccentric, rather 
musty bachelor smelling of sealing-wax and 
cheap scent. Occasionally the young lieutenant, 
Yevgeny Listnitsky, rode over from his father's 
estate. The company would sit drinking tea on 
the verandah, carrying on a pointless conver- 
sation, and when there was a lull in the talk 
one of the guests would get up and set going 
the host's expensive inlaid gramophone. 

On rare occasions, during the great holidays, 
Sergei Platonovich liked to cut a dash: he in- 
vited guests and regaled them with expensive 
wines, fresh caviare, ordered from Bataisk for 
the occasion, and the finest of hors-d'oeuvres. 
At other times he lived frugally. The one thing 


in regard to which he exercised no self-re- 
straint was the purchase of books. He loved 
reading, and liked to get to the bottom of things 
with his own mind, which was tenacious as 

His partner, Yemelyan Konstantinovich 
Atyopin, a fair-haired man with a pointed 
beard and hidden slits of eyes, rarely visited 
Mokhov. He was married to a former nun, had 
had eight children by her in fifteen years of 
married life, and stayed at home most of the 
time. He had begun his career as a regimental 
clerk, and the fusty spirit of cringing and in- 
gratiation brought from there permeated his 
family also. His children walked on tiptoe in 
his presence, and talked in whispers. Every 
morning after washing, they lined up in the 
dining-room under the black hanging coffin 
of the huge clock. Their mother stood 
behind them, and as soon as the dry cough 
was heard from the bedroom, they would 
begin discordantly "Our Father" and other 

Yemelyan Konstantinovich would be dressed 
and emerge from the bedroom by the time the 
prayers were ended. Screwing up his tiny green 
eyes, he would extend his fleshy hand as though 
he were a bishop, while the children ap- 
proached him in single file to kiss it. Then Yeme- 


lyan Konstantinovich would kiss his wife on 
the cheek and ask, lisping: 

"Polya, is the tea ready?" 

"It is, Yemelyan Konstantinovich." 

"Pour me some strong tea." 

He was the shop's accountant. He covered 
the pages under their bold-faced headings, 
"Debit" and "Credit," with his flowery clerk's 
handwriting. He read the Stock Exchange News, 
adorning his lumpy nose with a gold-rimmed 
pince-nez for which he had no need. He treated 
his employees politely. 

"Ivan Petrovich, please show the Taurida 
calico to the customer." 

His wife called him Yemelyan Konstantino- 
vich, his children-Papa, his shop assistants- 

The two village priests. Father Vissarion and 
the pious Father Pankraty, were not on friendly 
terms with Sergei Platonovich. They had a 
long-standing quarrel with him. Nor were they 
on very amicable terms with each other. The 
fractious, intriguing Father Pankraty was clev- 
er at making trouble for his neighbours, and the 
widower Father Vissarion with a syphilitic 
twang in his voice that belied his affable na- 
ture, who lived with a Ukrainian housekeeper, 
held himself aloof, and had no love for Father 


Pankraty because of his inordinate pride and 
intriguing character. 

All except the teacher Balanda owned their 
own houses. Mokhov's big house, faced with 
match-board and painted blue, stood in the 
square; right opposite, in the centre of the 
square squatted his shop with its glass door 
and faded signboard. Attached to the shop was 
a long, low shed with a cellar, and a hundred 
paces farther on rose the brick wall of the 
church yard and the church itself with a cupola 
that looked like a ripe green onion. Beyond the 
church were the whitewashed, officially severe 
walls of the school, and two smart-looking 
houses, one blue, with blue-painted fences, be- 
longing to Father Pankraty; the other brown 
(to avoid any resemblance) with carved fencing 
and a broad balcony, belonging to Father Vis- 
sarion. Then came Atyopin's strangely narrow 
two-storied house, the post office, the thatched 
and iron-roofed houses of the Cossacks and 
finally the sloping back of the mill, with rusty 
tin cocks on its roof. 

The inhabitants of the village lived behind 
their barred and bolted double shutters, cut 
off from all the rest of the world. Every eve- 
ning, unless they were paying a visit to a neigh- 
bour, each family shot the bolts of their doors, 


unchained their dogs in the yards, and only 
the sound of the wooden tongue of the night 
watchman's clapper disturbed the silence. 


One day towards the end of August Mitka 
Korshunov happened to meet Liza Mokhova 
down by the river. He had just rowed across 
from the other side, and as he was fastening 
up his boat he saw a light gaily-painted skiff 
skimming the stream. It was being rowed by 
the student Boyarishkin. His shaven head 
glistened with perspiration, and the veins 
stood out on his forehead. 

Mitka did not recognize Liza in the skiff at 
first, for her straw hat threw her face into shad- 
ow. Her sunburnt hands were pressing a 
bunch of yellow water-lilies to her breast. 

"Korshunov!" she called, shaking her head 
at Mitka. "You've deceived me." 

"Deceived you?" 

"Don't you remember, you promised to take 
me fishing?" 

Boyarishkin dropped the oars and straight- 
ened his back. The skiff thrust its nose into the 
shore with a scrunch. 

"Do you remember?" Liza laughed, as she 
jumped out. 


"I haven't had the time. Too much work to 
do," Mitka said apologetically, catching his 
breath as the girl approached him. 

"No, it's impossible," Boyarishkin inter- 
rupted. "I've had enough, Yelizaveta. You have 
had all the service you will get from me! The 
distance we have covered over this confounded 
v/ater! My hands are all blisters. Give me dry 

Boyarishkin planted a long bare foot on the 
gravelly shore and mopped his forehead with 
the top of his crumpled student's cap. Without 
replying, Liza went up to Mitka. He clumsily 
shook the hand she offered him. 

"Well, then, when shall we go fishing?" she 
asked with a toss of her head, narrowing her 

"Tomorrow if you like. We've done the 
threshing and I've got more time now." 

"You're not deceiving me this time?" 

"No, I'm not!" 

"Will you come early?" 

"At dawn." 

"I'll be waiting for you." 

"I'll come, honestly I will." 

"You haven't forgotten the window?" 

"I'll find it." 

"I am going away soon, I expect. And I'd 
like to go fishing first." 


Mitka toyed silently with the rusty key for 
locking up the boat, and looked straight at her 

"Will you be through soon?" asked Boyarish- 
kin, examining a shell lying in his palm. 

"In a minute." 

She was silent a moment, then, smiling to 
herself, she asked: 

"You've had a wedding in your family, 
haven't you?" 

"Yes, my sister's." 

"Whom did she marry?" Then, without wait- 
ing for an answer, she smiled again mysterious- 
ly and fleetingly. "Do come, won't you?" Once 
again, as it had on the verandah of Mokhov's 
house her smile stung Mitka like a nettle. 

He watched her to the boat. Boyarishkin 
pushed off clumsily and rowed away, while 
Liza smiled over his head at Mitka, who was 
still toying with the key, and nodded farewell. 

When the boat was well out, Mitka heard 
Boyarishkin quietly ask: "Who is that fellow?" 

"Just an acquaintance." 

"Not an affair of the heart?" 

Mitka did not catch her answer above the 
creak of the rowlocks. He saw Boyarishkin 
throw himself back with a laugh, but could not 
see Liza's face. The lilac ribbon on her hat, 
stirring gently in the breeze, caressed the slope 

13—1933 193 

of her bare shoulder with a melting softness 
that teased Mitka's misty glance. 

Mitka, who rarely went fishing with rod and 
line, had never prepared for the occasion 
with such zeal as on that evening. He chopped 
some dung straw and boiled up the millet over 
a fire on the vegetable patch, then sorted out 
his hooks, renewing the lines that were rotten. 

Mikhei, who was watching his preparations, 
asked: "Take me with you, Mitka. You won't 
be able to manage alone," 

"I'll manage." 

Mikhei sighed. 

"It's a long time since we went out together. 
I'd just like the feel of a twenty-pounder pull- 
ing on the line." 

Mitka frowned into the hot column of steam 
rising from the pot and said nothing. When 
he had finished he went into the back room. 
Grandfather Grishaka was sitting by the win- 
dow, with round, copper-rimmed spectacles on 
his nose, studying the Gospels. 

"Grandad!" Mitka said, leaning his back 
against the door-frame. 

The old man looked at him over his specta- 


"Wake me up at the first cock." 

"Where are you off to so early?" 



The old man had a weakness for fish but he 
made a pretence of opposing Mitka's designs. 

"Your father said the hemp must be beaten 
tomorrow. There's no time to laze about." 

Mitka stirred from the door and tried strat- 

"Oh, all right then. I wanted to give you a 
treat but as there's the hemp to be done, I won't 


"Stop, where are you off to?" the old man 
took alarm and pulled off his spectacles. "I'll 
speak to your father about it, you can go. 
Tomorrow's Wednesday, I could just do with a 
bit of fish. All right, I'll wake you up. Go on, 
you young ass, what are you grinning at?" 

At midnight the old man, holding up his 
linen trousers with one hand and gripping his 
stick in the other, floated like a trembling white 
shadow across the yard to the barn, entered 
the bam and jabbed his crutch into Mitka's 
sleeping body. In the barn the smell of newly- 
threshed grain and mice droppings mingled 
with the stale cobweb-choked air of a place that 
is never lived in. 

Mitka was sleeping on a rug by the corn-bin. 
Grishaka poked at him with his stick, but could 
not rouse him for some time. At first he poked 
lightly, whispering: 

13* 195 

"Mitka! Mitka! Hey, Mitka!" 

But Mitka only sighed and drew his legs up. 
Grishaka grew more ruthless and began to bore 
the stick into Mitka's stomach. With a gasp 
Mitka seized the end of the stick and woke up 

"How you sleep!" grumbled the old man. 

"Quiet, Grandad. Don't bumble," Mitka 
muttered sleepily, groping for his boots. 

The lad made his way to the square. The vil- 
lage cocks were already crowing for the second 
time. As he passed Father Vissarion's house he 
heard a cock flap its wings in the hen-coop and 
give a mighty bellow worthy of the head dea- 
con, while the hens clucked in alarm, 

A night watchman was asleep on the steps 
of the shop, his nose tucked into the sheepskin 
warmth of his collar. 

Mitka reached Mokhov's fence, set down his 
fishing tackle, and on tiptoe, so as not to dis- 
turb the dogs, crept into the porch. He tried 
the cold iron latch. The door was shut fast. He 
clambered across the banister of the verandah 
and went up to the window. It was half-closed. 
Through the black gap came the sweet scent of 
a girl's warm, sleeping body and the mysteri- 
ously sweet smell of perfume. 

"Yelizaveta Sergeyevna!" 

Mitka thought he had called very loudly. He 


waited. Silence. "Suppose I'm at the wrong 
window! Suppose Mokhov's asleep in there! I'll 
be for it then. He'll use a gun!" 

"Yelizaveta Sergeyevna, coming fishing?" 

If he'd mistaken the window there'd be some 
fish caught all right! 

"Are you getting up?" he said in irritation, 
and thrust his head through the window open- 

"Who's there?" a low startled voice sounded 
in the darkness. 

"It's me, Korshunov. Coming fishing?" 

"Oh! Just a minute." 

There was a sound of movement inside. Her 
warm, sleepy voice seemed to smell of mint. 
Mitka saw something white and rustling mov- 
ing about the room. 

"I'd rather sleep with her than get cold 
fishing," he thought vaguely with the smell of 
the bedroom in his nostrils. 

After a while her smiling face, framed in a 
white kerchief, appeared at the window. 

"I'm coming out this way. Give me your 
hand." As he helped her down, she looked close- 
ly into his eyes. 

"I didn't take long, did I?" 

"It's all right, we'll be in time." 

They went down to the Don. She rubbed her 
sleep-swollen eyes with a pink hand. 


"I was sleeping so sweetly. I could have slept 
on. It's too early to go yet." 

"We'll be just in time." 

They followed the first lane from the square 
leading down to the river. During the night the 
river had risen, and the boat, which had been 
left high and dry the evening before, was now 
rocking on the water a little way out. 

"I'll have to take off my shoes," she sighed, 
measuring the distance to the boat with her 

"Let me carry you," Mitka proposed. 

"No, I'd better take my shoes off." 

"Carrying you would be easier." 

"I'd rather not," she said, with embarrass- 
ment in her voice. 

Mitka embraced her legs above the knees 
with his left arm, and, lifting her easily, 
splashed through the water. She clutched in- 
voluntarily at the finn, dark column of his neck 
and laughed with a cooing softness. 

If Mitka had not stumbled over a stone used 
by the village women when washing clothes, 
there would not have been a brief, accidental 
kiss. She gasped and pressed her face against 
Mitka's hard cracked lips, and he came to a 
halt two paces away from the boat. The water 
swirled over the tops of his boots and chilled 
his feet. 


Unfastening the boat, he pushed it off and 
jumped in. He rowed standing. The water 
rustled and wept under the stern. The boat 
gently breasted the stream, making for the 
opposite bank. The fishing rods jumped and 
clattered at the bottom of the boat. 

"Where are you taking me?" she asked, 
glancing back. 

"To the other side." 

The keel grated on the sandy shore. Without 
asking permission he picked the girl up in his 
arms, and carried her into a clump of haw- 
thorn. She bit at his face, scratched, gave one 
or two stifled screams, and feeling her strength 
ebbing, she wept angrily, but without tears. 

They returned about nine o'clock. The sky 
was wrapped in a ruddy yellow haze. A strong 
breeze danced over the river, maning the waves. 
The boat danced over the waves, and the 
cold frothy spray sprinkled on Liza's pallid 
face and clung to her lashes and the strands of 
her hair. She wearily closed her vacant eyes, 
twisting in her fingers a flower that had fallen 
into the boat. Mitka rowed without looking at 
her. A small carp and a bream lay goggle-eyed 
at his feet, their mouths twisted in death; Mit- 
ka's face wore an expression of mingled guilt, 
content and anxiety. 

"I'll take you to Semyonov's landing stage. 


It will be nearer for you," he told her, as he 
turned the boat into the stream. 

"All right/' she whispered. 

Along the deserted shore the dusty wattle 
fences pined in the hot wind, drenching the air 
with the smell of burnt brushwood. The heavy 
over-ripe caps of the sunflowers, pecked by 
sparrows, drooped low, scattering fluffy seeds 
over the ground. The meadowland was emerald 
with the young aftermath. Colts were frisking 
about in the distance; and the hot southerly 
wind wafted up the echoing laughter of the 
bells tied round their necks. 

As Liza was getting out of the boat Mitka 
picked up a fish and held it out to her. 

"Here, take the catch." 

Her lashes flickered in alarm, but she took 
the fish. 

"Well, I'm going." 

Holding the fish by the willow twig Mitka 
had fixed through their gills, she turned miser- 
ably away. Gone were her recent assurance and 
gaiety, left behind in the hawthorn bushes. 


She turned round, surprise and irritation in 
her frown. 

"Come back a minute." 

And when she came closer he said, annoyed 
at his own embarrassment, "We were a bit care- 


less. Your dress at the back . . . there's a stain 
on it. It's only a little one. . . ." 

A hot flush spread over her face and neck. 
After a moment's silence, Mitka advised: "Go 
by the back ways," 

"I'll have to pass through the square in any 
case. ... I meant to put my black skirt on," she 
whispered, looking at Mitka with regret and 
sudden hatred. 

"Let me green it a bit with a leaf," Mitka 
suggested simply, and was surprised to see the 
tears come into her eyes. 

Like the rustling whisper of a summer breeze 
the news flew round the village. "Mitka Kor- 
shunov's been out all night with Sergei Plato- 
novich's daughter." The women talked about it 
as they drove out the cattle to join the village 
herd in the morning, as they stood in the nar- 
row shade of the well-sweeps with the grey 
dust swirling round them and water dripping 
from their buckets, or as they beat out their 
washing on the flat stones down by the river. 

"Her own mother's dead you know." 

"Her father never has a minute to spare, and 
her stepmother just doesn't trouble." 

"The watchman says he saw a man tapping 
at the end window at midnight. He thought at 
first it was someone trying to break in. He ran 
to see who it waS/ and found it was Mitka." 


"The girls these days, I don't know what 
they're coming to." 

"Mitka told my Nikita he's going to marry 

"He'd better wipe his nose first." 

"He forced her, they say." 

"Don't you believe it. . . ." 

The rumours flowed round main street and 
back street, smearing the girl's good name, as 
a clean gate is smeared with thick tar. 

Finally they descended on the greying head 
of Mokhov himself and crushed him to the 
ground. For two days he went neither to the 
shop nor to the mill. His servants, who lived 
downstairs, came to him only at dinner. 

On the third day Sergei Platonovich had his 
dapple-grey stallion harnessed to his droshki, 
and drove to the stanitsa, bowing remotely to 
the Cossacks he met on the way. The droshki 
was followed by a highly-varnished carriage, 
which swished out of the yard, drawn by a pair 
of prancing black horses. Yemelyan the coach- 
man, sucking his pipe, which had become 
permanently attached to his greying beard, 
shook out the blue silk of the reins and the two 
black horses went prancing down the street. 
Liza could be seen sitting pale-faced behind 
Yemelyan's craggy back. She held a light valise 
on her knees and was smiling sadly. At the 


gate she waved her glove to Vladimir and her 

Pantelei Prokofyevich happened to be limp- 
ing out of the shop at the moment, and he 
stopped to ask the yardman Nikita: "Where's 
the master's daughter going?" 

And Nikita, condescending to the simple hu- 
man weakness, replied: "To Moscow, to study." 

The next day an incident occurred which was 
long the subject of talk down by the river, un- 
der the shadow of the well-sweeps, and when 
the cattle were being driven out to graze. Just 
before nightfall (the village herd had already 
returned from the steppe) Mitka went to see 
Sergei Platonovich. He had waited until evening 
in order to avoid meeting anyone, for he came 
not merely to make a friendly call, but to ask 
for the hand of Mokhov's daughter, Liza. 

He had met her perhaps four times, not more. 
At the last meeting the conversation had taken 
the following course: 

"Liza, will you marry me?" 


"I shall care for you, I'll love you. We have 
people to work for us, you shall sit at the win- 
dow and read your books." 

"You're a fool!" 

Mitka took offence, and said no more. That 
evening he went home early, and in the 


morning he announced to his astonished 

"Father, arrange for my marriage." 

"Don't be a fool." 

"Honestly, Father, I'm not joking." 

"In a hurry, aren't you? Who're you smitten 
on-crazy Marfa?" 

"Send the match-makers to Sergei Platono- 

Miron Grigoryevich carefully set down the 
cobbling tools with which he was mending har- 
ness, and roared with laughter. 

"You're in a funny vein today, my son." 

But Mitka stuck to his guns, and his father 
flared up. 

"You fool! Sergei Platonovich has a capital 
of over a hundred thousand rubles. He's a mer- 
chant, and what are you? Clear off, or I'll 
leather you with this strap." 

"We've got fourteen pairs of bullocks, and 
look at the land we own. Besides he's a muzhik, 
and we're Cossacks." 

"Clear off!" Miron said curtly. He did not like 
long discussions. 

Mitka found a sympathetic listener only in 
his grandfather. The old man attempted to per- 
suade Miron in favour of his son's suit. 

"Miron!" old Grishaka said. "Why don't you 
agree? As the boy's taken it into his head. . , ." 


"Father, you're a great baby, God's truth you 
are! Mitka's silly enough, but you're...." 

"Hold your tongue!" Grishaka rapped his 
stick on the floor. "Aren't we good enough for 
them? He ought to take it as an honour for a 
Cossack's son to wed his daughter. He'll give 
up, and gladly too. We're known all over the 
countryside. We're not farm-hands, we're mas- 
ters. Go and ask him, Miron. What's stopping 
you? Let him give his mill as the dowry." 

Miron snorted and went out into the yard. So 
Mitka decided to wait until evening and then 
go to Mokhov himself. He knew that his fa- 
ther's obstinacy was like a well-rooted elm: you 
might bend it, but you could never break it. It 
was not worth trying. 

He went whistling as far as Mokhov's front 
door, then grew timid. He hesitated a moment, 
and finally went through the yard to the side 
door. On the steps he asked the maid in her 
crackling starched apron: "Master at home?" 
"He's drinking his tea. Wait!" 
Mitka sat down and waited, lit a cigarette, 
smoked it, and crushed the end on the floor. 
Mokhov came out, brushing crumbs off his 
waistcoat. When he saw Mitka he frowned, but 
said: "Come in." 

Mitka entered Mokhov's cool private room 
that smelled of books and tobacco, feeling that 


the courage with which he had been charged 
so far had been sufficient to last only to the 
merchant's threshold. The merchant went to his 
table, and swung round on his heels: "Well?" 
Behind his back his fingers scratched at the top 
of the table. 

"I've come to find out . . ." Mitka plunged 
into the cold slime of Mokhov's piercing eyes 
and shuddered. "Perhaps you'll give me Liza?" 
Despair, anger, fear, all combined to bring his 
face out in perspiration, fine as dew during a 

Mokhov's left eyebrow quivered, and his up- 
per lip writhed back from the gums. He stretched 
out his neck and leaned all his body forward: 

"What? Wha-a-at? You scoundrel! Get out! 
I'll have you before the ataman! You son of a 

Encouraged by this shout, Mitka watched the 
grey-blue blood flooding into Mokhov's cheeks. 

"Don't take it as an insult. I only wanted to 
make up for what I've done." 

Mokhov rolled his bloodshot eyes and threw 
a massive iron ash-tray at Mitka' s feet. It re- 
bounded and struck him on the knee. But he 
stoically bore the pain, and jerking open the 
door, shouted, baring his teeth with resentment 
and pain: 

"As you like, Sergei Platonovich, just as you 


like, but I meant it. . . . Who would want her 
now? I thought I'd cover her shame. But now 
. . . even a dog won't touch a gnawed bone." 

Pressing a crumpled handkerchief to his lips, 
Mokhov followed on Mitka's heels. He barred 
the way to the main door, and Mitka ran out 
into the yard. Here the master had only to wink 
to Yemelyan the coachman, and as Mitka was 
struggling with the stout latch at the wicket- 
gate, four unleashed hounds tore round the cor- 
ner of the barn. Seeing a stranger, they bound- 
ed across the clean-swept yard straight at him. 

In 1910, Sergei Platonovich had brought back 
a pair of black curly-haired pups from the fair 
at Nizhny Novgorod. In a year those black, 
curly, big-mouthed pups shot up like yearling 
calves. At first they snapped at the skirts of 
the women who passed Mokhov's yard, then 
they learned to pull the women to the ground 
and bite their legs, and it was only when they 
had killed Father Pankraty's calf and a pair of 
Atyopin's hogs that Sergei Platonovich ordered 
them to be chained up. Now the dogs were let 
loose only at night, and once every spring for 
the mating. 

Before Mitka could turn round the foremost 
dog was up at his shoulders with its teeth fas- 
tened into his jacket. The writhing black bodies 
bit and tore at him. Mitka fought them off 


and tried to keep his balance. He saw Yeme- 
lyan, his pipe scattering sparks, disappear into 
the kitchen, and heard the door slam behind 

By the steps, leaning against a drain-pipe, 
stood Sergei Platonovich, his hairy white fists 
clenched. Swaying and staggering, Mitka tore 
open the gate and dragged the bunch of snarl- 
ing, hot-breathed dogs after him on his bleed- 
ing legs. He seized one by the throat and choked 
it, and passing Cossacks with difficulty beat 
off the others. 


Natalya fitted well into the Melekhov house- 
hold. Although he was rich and employed la- 
bourers, her father had brought up his chil- 
dren to work. Hard-working Natalya won the 
hearts of her husband's parents. Ilyinichna, who 
secretly did not like her elder clothes-loving 
daughter-in-law Darya, took to Natalya from 
the very first. 

"Sleep on, sleep on, little one! What are you 
out so early for?" she would protest kindly, 
bustling about the kitchen on her stout legs. 
"Go back to bed, we'll manage without you." 

And Natalya who had got up at dawn to help 
in the kitchen would go back to the best room 
to complete her rest, 


Even Pantelei, who was usually strict in re- 
gard to household matters, said to his wife: 

"Listen, wife, don't wake Natalya. She works 
hard enough as it is. She's going out with 
Grisha to plough today. But whip up that 
Darya. She's a lazy woman, and bad. She 
paints her face and blacken^ her brows, the 

"Let her take it a bit easy, the first year," 
sighed Ilyinichna, remembering her own back- 
breaking life, 

Grigory had begun to get used to his newly- 
married state; but after two or three weeks he 
realized with fear and chagrin that he had not 
completely broken with Aksinya. Something 
was left like a thorn in his heart, and the pain 
would not go soon. The feeling which, in the 
excitement of marriage, he had dismissed with 
a careless wave of the hand was deep-rooted. 
He thought he could forget, but it refused to 
be forgotten, and the wound bled. Even before 
the wedding Pyotr had asked him when they 
were threshing together: 

"Grisha, but what about Aksinya?" 

"Well, what about her?" 

"Won't you feel sorry to throw her over?" 

"Someone else will pick her up," Grigory had 
said with a laugh. 

"Well, you know best," Pyotr said, biting at 

14—1933 209 

the chewed tip of his moustache, "but don't 
make a hash of your marriage." 

"Love grows old and the body cold," Grigory 
replied lightly. 

But it had not worked out like that. As he 
dutifully caressed his wife, trying to inflame 
her with his own youthful zest, he met with 
only coldness and an embarrassed submission 
from her. Natalya shrank from bodily delights; 
she had inherited something of her mother's 
slow, unresponsive blood, and as he recalled 
Aksinya's passionate fervour Grigory sighed: 
"Your father must have made you on ice, Na- 
talya. You're too chilly by half." 

And when he met Aksinya she would smile 
with a vague darkening of the pupils and her 
words clung like the mud at the bottom of a 

"Hullo, Grisha! How's love with your young 

"All right," Grigory would reply evasively, 
and escape as quickly as possible from her ca- 
ressing glance. 

Stepan had evidently made up his quarrel 
with his wife. He visited the tavern less fre- 
quently, and one evening, as he was winnowing 
grain on the threshing-floor, he suggested, for 
the first time since the beginning of the trou- 
ble: "Let's sing a song, Aksinya!" 


They sat down, their backs against a heap of 
threshed, dusty wheat. Stepan began an army 
song, Aksinya joined in with her full, throaty 
voice. They sang well together, as they had in 
the first years of their married life, when they 
used to jog back from the fields under the crim- 
son hem of the sunset glow and Stepan would 
sit on the load and sing an old song, as long 
and sad as the wild and desolate road across 
the steppe. Aksinya with her head resting on 
the bulging hoops of her husband's chest would 
take up the tune. The horses would pull the 
creaking wagon and the shaft-bow would bob 
up and down. And from afar the old men of the 
village would listen to the song. 

"She's got a fine voice, that wife of Stepan's." 

"Aye, nice singing." 

"And what a voice Stepan has got, clear as 
a bell." 

And as they sat on the earthen banks round 
their cottages watching the dusty purple of the 
sunset, the old men would exchange remarks 
across the street, about the song, where it came 
from, and about those who had loved it. 

Grigory heard the Astakhovs singing, and 
while he was threshing (the two threshing-floors 
adjoined) he could see Aksinya as self-assured 
as before, and apparently happy. Or so it 
seemed to him. 

14* 211 

Stepan was not on speaking terms with the 
Melekhovs. He worked on the threshing-floor, 
swinging his great sloping shoulders, occasion- 
ally making a jesting remark to Aksinya. And 
she would respond with a smile, her black eyes 
flashing. Her green skirt hovered constantly 
before Grigory's eyes. His neck was continually 
being twisted by a strange force which turned 
his head in the direction of Stepan's yard. He 
did not notice that Natalya, who was helping 
Pantelei. spread out the sheaves for threshing, 
intercepted every involuntary glance with her 
own yearning, jealous gaze; he did not see 
Pyotr, who was driving the horses round the 
threshing circle, wrinkling his nose with a faint 
grin as he watched his brother. 

The earth groaned under the crushing weight 
of the stone rollers and with the muffled rumble 
in his ears Grigory groped hazily in his mind 
and failed to catch the scraps of thought that 
slipped elusively out of range of his conscious- 

From near and distant threshing-floors came 
the sound of threshing: the shouts of drivers, 
the whistle of knouts, the rattle of the winnow- 
ing drums. The village, fat with the harvest, 
basked in the September warmth, stretching 
along the Don like a beaded snake across a 
road. In every farmyard with its wattle fence, 


under every Cossack roof, each brimming bit- 
ter-sweet life whirled on, separate and apart 
from the rest. Old Grishaka had taken a chill 
and was suffering with his teeth; Mokhov, 
crushed by his shame, clawed his beard, weeping 
and grinding his teeth in solitude; Stepan 
nursed his hatred for Grigory in his heart and his 
iron fingers tore at the patchwork quilt in his 
sleep; Natalya would run to the shed and threw 
herself on the heap of cowdung fuel, shaking 
and huddling into a ball as she wept over her 
desecrated happiness; Christonya, who had sold 
a calf at the fair, then spent the money on drink, 
was tortured by pangs of conscience; Grigory 
sighed with insatiable longing and renewed 
pain; Aksinya, as she caressed her husband, 
flooded her undying hatred for him with tears. 
David had been discharged from the mill, and 
sat night after night with Knave in the carters' 
shed, while Knave, his angry eyes flashing, 
would declare: 

"Just wait! They'll have their throats cut be- 
fore long. One revolution wasn't enough for 
them. Wait till we have another 1905, then we'll 
settle scores. We'll settle scores!" he shook his 
scarred finger threateningly, and with a shrug 
adjusted the jacket flung across his shoulders. 

And over the village slipped the days, pass 
ing into the nights; the weeks flowed by, the 


months crept on, the wind howled over the hill, 
warning of bad v/eather to come, and, glazed 
with the clear greenish-blue of autumn, the 
Don flowed on indifferently to the sea. 


One Sunday at the end of October Fedot Bo- 
dovskov drove to the stanitsa on business. He 
took with him four braces of fattened ducks and 
sold them at the market; he bought his wife 
some cotton print, and was on the point of driv- 
ing home (with one foot on the wheel he was 
tightening the hame strap), when a stran- 
ger, obviously not of those parts, came up to 

"Good-afternoon," he greeted Fedot, putting 
a sunburnt hand to the edge of his black hat. 

" 'Afternoon," said Fedot and paused inquir- 
ingly, narrowing his Kalmyk eyes. 

"Where are you from?" 

"One of the villages." 

"And which village may that be?" 


The stranger drew a silver cigarette-case out 
of his pocket and offered Fedot a cigarette. 

"Is yours a large village?" 

"No thanks, just had one. Our village? Pret- 
ty big. Three hundred families or thereabouts." 


"Is there a church there?" 

""Of course." 

"Any blacksmiths there?" 

"Aye, there's a smithy." 

"Is there a workshop at the mill?" 

Fedot fastened the rein to his horse's bit, and 
looked distrustfully at the man's black hat and 
the furrows in the broad white face, fringed 
with a black beard. 

"What do you want to know for?" 

"I'm coming to live at your village. I've just 
been to the district ataman. Are you going back 


"Will you take me back with you? I'm not 
alone. I have my wife with me and a couple of 

"I can take you." 

Having agreed about the price, they drove to 
Froska the bun-maker's where his passenger 
was lodging, collected the man's thin, blond 
wife, put the boxes in the back and set out on 
the return journey. Clicking his tongue and 
flicking the plaited reins over the horse's backs, 
Fedot twisted his angular head round from time 
to time; he was eaten up with curiosity. His 
passengers sat quietly behind him. Fedot first 
asked for a cigarette, then he inquired: 

"Where are you from?" 


"From Rostov." 

"One o' them?" 

"What did you say?" 

"Were you born there?" 

"Er, yes." 

Fedot wrinkled his bronzed cheeks and 
peered at the distant clumps of steppe grass. The 
road began to climb and half a verst from the 
road, in the grey-brown brushwood on top of 
the ridge Fedot's practised eye spotted the 
scarcely visible movements of bustards' heads. 

"Pity I haven't got a gun, or Fd be out after 
the bustards. There they go," he sighed, point- 
ing with his thumb. 

"I don't see anything," his passenger replied, 
blinking shortsightedly. 

Fedot watched the bustards flutter into a gully 
and twisted himself round to study his passen- 
gers more closely. The man was of average 
height, but thin; his close-set eyes had a sly 
twinkle in them. He smiled frequently as he 
talked. His wife, wrapped in a knitted shawl, 
was dozing and Fedot couldn't see her face. 

"What are you coming to live in our village 

"Fm a mechanic. Fm thinking of starting a 
workshop. I can do carpentry too." 

Fedot stared suspiciously at the man's big 
hands, and catching his gaze, the stranger add- 


ed: "I'm also an agent for the Singer Sewing- 
Machine Company." 

"What's your name?" Fedot asked. 


"So you're not Russian, then?" 

"Yes, I'm a Russian. But my grandfather was 
a Lett by birth." 

In a short while Fedot had learned that Osip 
Davydovich Stockman had formerly worked at 
a factory, then somev/here in the Kuban, then 
in the South-Eastern Railway workshops. 
And a great number of other facts the inquisi- 
tive Fedot elicited concerning the stranger's 

After a while the conversation flagged. Fedot 
watered his sweating horse at a wayside spring, 
and drowsy with the journey and the jolting of 
the cart, he began to doze. It was another five 
versts to the village. He fastened the reins to 
the wagon and lay back comfortably. But he 
was not allowed to go to sleep. 

"How's life in your parts?" Stockman asked 
him bouncing and swaying with the motion of 
the cart. 

"Not so bad, we get our bread." 

"And the Cossacks generally, are they satis- 
fied with life?" 

"Some are, some aren't. You can't please 


"That's true," the man assented, and went on 
asking his tricky probing questions. 

"You live pretty well, you say?" 

"Pretty well." 

"The annual army training must be a nui- 
sance? Eh?" 

"Army training? We're used to it. Nothing to 
worry about when you're in the army." 

"But it's hard on you Cossacks to have to sup- 
ply all the equipment." 

"Yes, the sons of swine!" Fedot said with 
sudden animation and glanced sidelong at the 
woman. She averted her eyes. 

"Our authorities are a bad lot. . . . When I 
went to do my service I sold my bullocks and 
bought a horse and they rejected him." 

"Rejected him?" Stockman said with as- 
sumed amazement. 

"Right out. His legs were no good, they said. 
I argued with them, I tried everything. 'He's 
got legs like a prize stallion,' I said, 'it's just 
his funny way of stepping, that's all.' But no, 
they wouldn't pass him. It's enough to ruin 

The conversation went on briskly. Fedot 
jumped off the wagon and began to talk freely of 
the village life. He cursed the village ataman 
for his unjust division of the meadowland, and 
praised the way things were run in Poland, 


where his regiment had been stationed. Stock- 
man, casting sharp glances at Fedot from his 
narrowed eyes, smoked mild cigarettes in a 
ringed bone holder and smiled frequently, but 
the frown furrow in his white sloping forehead 
stirred slowly and heavily, as though driven 
from within by hidden thoughts. 

They reached the village in the early eve- 
ning. On Fedot's advice Stockman went to the 
widow Lukeshka and rented two rooms from 

"Who is that you brought back with you?" 
Fedot's neighbours asked him as he drove past 
their gates. 

"An agent." 

"What kind of angel?" 

"You're fools, that's what you are. An agent, 
I said. He sells machines. He gives them away 
free to the handsome ones, but to such as you. 
Auntie Marya, he sells them." 

"Look at yourself, you devil. Your Kalmyk 
snout is ugly enough to frighten a horse!" 

"Kalmyks and Tatars come first in the 
steppe, so don't you joke about them," Fedot 

Mechanic Stockman lodged at the cross-eyed, 
long-tongued Lukeshka's. And the night had 
scarcely passed before all the women's tongues 
in the village were wagging. 


"Have you heard the news, neighbour?" 

"What news?" 

"Fedot the Kalmyk has brought a foreigner 


"So help me God. He wears a hat and his 
name is Shtopel or Shtokal. . . ." 

"He's not from the police?" 

"No, he's an exciseman." 

"It's all lies, my dears. He's a book-keeper, 
they say, just like Father Pankraty's son." 

"Pashka, my dove, run to Lukeshka and ask 
her quietly: 'Who's that living with you, 
auntie?' " 

"Run quickly, child!" 

Next day Stockman reported to the village 

Fyodor Manitskov, who was in his third year 
as ataman, turned the newcomer's passport over 
and over, then handed it to the clerk, who also 
turned it over and over. They exchanged 
glances, and the ataman, once a sergeant-major, 
authoritatively waved his hand. 

"You can stay." 

The newcomer bowed and left the room. For 
a week he did not put his nose outside Lukesh- 
ka's house keeping like a suslik to his burrow. 
He could be heard tapping with an axe, prepar- 
ing a workshop in the tumble-down outdoor 


kitchen. The women's interest in him died 
away; only the children spent all day peeping 
over the fence and watching the stranger with 
unabashed curiosity. 


Three days before Intercession Grigory and 
his wife drove out to the steppe to plough. Pan- 
telei was unwell; he leaned heavily on his stick 
and wheezed with pain as he stood in the yard 
seeing them off. 

"Plough up the two strips on the other side 
of the common, by Red Dell, Grisha." 

"All right. What about the one up by Willow 
Bank?" Grigory asked in a hoarse whisper; he 
had caught a cold while fishing and had a cloth 
round his throat. 

"That can wait till after the holiday. You'll 
have enough to do as it is, so don't be greedy. 
There must be fifteen acres up there." 

"Will Pyotr be coming to help?" 

"He's going to the mill with Darya. We want 
to get our milling done before the crowds be- 

As Ilyinichna put some freshly-baked buns 
in Natalya's jacket she whispered: "Perhaps 
you'll take Dunya with you, to lead the bull- 

"Two people are enough." 


"All right, my dear. Christ be with you." 

Arching her slender figure under the weight 
of a load of damp washing, Dunya went past 
on her way to the Don to rinse the clothes. As 
she went by she called to Natalya: 

"Natalya, there's lots of sorrel in Red Dell. 
Pull some up and bring it home." 

"Now then, be off with you, chatterbox!" 
Pantelei said shaking his stick at Dunya. 

The three pairs of bullocks dragged the up- 
turned plough out of the yard, gouging the 
drought-hardened earth. Grigory kept adjusting 
the kerchief bound round his neck as he 
v/alked along at the roadside, coughing. Natalya 
walked at his side, a bag with their food in it 
swinging on her back. 

A crystal stillness enveloped the steppe. Be- 
yond the common, on the other side of the hump- 
backed hill the earth was being combed with 
ploughs, and the drivers were whistling; but 
here along the high-road there was only the 
blue-grey of stunted wormwood, the roadside 
clover nibbled by sheep, and the ringing glassy 
cool of the sky above, criss-crossed with fly- 
ing threads of jewelled gossamer. 

After seeing the ploughmen on their way, 
Pyotr and Darya made ready to drive to the 
mill. Pyotr winnowed the wheat in the granary, 
Darya sacked it and carried it to the cart. 


Pantelei harnessed the horses carefully adjust- 
ing the traces. 

"Going to be long?" 

"Coming," Pyotr answered from the granary. 

When they arrived at the mill they found 
the yard crowded with wagons. The scales were 
surrounded by a dense throng. Pyotr threw the 
reins to Darya and jumped down from the cart. 

"My turn soon?" he asked Knave the scales- 

"You'll get there." 

"Who's being served now?" 

"Number thirty-eight." 

Pyotr turned to fetch his sacks. As he did so 
he heard cursing behind him. A hoarse, ill-tem- 
pered voice barked: "You oversleep yourself, 
and then you want to go out of your turn. Get 
away, khokhol*, or I'll give you one." 

Pyotr recognized the voice of Horseshoe 
Yakov. He stopped to listen. The sound of 
shouting swelled in the weighing-room. Then 
came the sharp smack of a blow and an elder- 
ly, bearded Ukrainian with his cap crushed on 
the back of his head came tumbling out 
through the doorway. 

"What's that for?" he shouted, holding his 

* Khokhol -a derogatory term for a Ukrainian. 

"I'll wring your neck!" 

"But look here. . , ," 

"Mikifor, help!" 

Horseshoe Yakov, a spirited, stocky artil- 
leryman, who had earned his nickname because 
of the horseshoe marks left on his face by the 
kick of a horse, came running out of the weigh- 
ing-room, rolling up his sleeves. A tall Ukrain- 
ian in a pink shirt struck hard at him from be- 
hind. But Yakov stayed on his feet. 

"Brothers, they're beating up the Cossacks!" 
he cried. 

Cossacks and Ukrainians, who were at the 
mill in large numbers, came running from all 
sides into the wagon-filled yard. A fight began 
round the main entrance. The door gave way 
under the pressure of the struggling bodies. 
Pyotr threw down his sack and with a grunt ran 
lightly towards the melee. Standing up on the 
cart, Darya saw him press into the middle of 
the crowd, knocking the others aside. She 
groaned as she saw him carried to the mill wall, 
flung down and trampled underfoot. 

Mitka Korshunov came skipping round the 
corner from the machine-room, brandishing an 
iron bar. The same Ukrainian who had struck 
at Yakov from behind burst out of the strug- 
gling crowd, a torn pink sleeve fluttering out 
behind him like a bird's broken wing. Bent dou- 


ble, his hands touching the ground, he ran to 
the nearest cart and pulled out a shaft as if it 
were a match-stick. Hoarse cries rang out over 
the yard. A crunching sound. Blows. Groaning. 
A steady roar of shouting. The three Shamil 
brothers came running out of their house. One- 
armed Alexei caught his feet in a pair of reins 
left lying on the ground and sprawled at the 
gate. He jumped up and went bounding across 
the lined-up cart-shafts, pressing his armless 
left sleeve to his stomach. His brother Martin 
bent down to tuck in the trouser leg, which had 
come out of his white sock. The shouting at 
the mill rose to a crescendo. Somebody let out 
a cry that floated high over the mill roof 
like a wind-blown thread of cobweb, and 
Martin straightened up and dashed after his 

Darya stood watching from the cart, panting 
and wringing her hands. Around her, women 
were squealing and wailing, horses pricked up 
their ears restlessly, bullocks bellowed and 
pressed against the carts. Pursing his lips Mo- 
khov stalked past pale-faced, his belly bobbing up 
and down like an egg under his waistcoat. Da- 
rya saw the Ukrainian with the tattered shirt 
cut Mitka Korshunov down with the shaft, the 
next moment he himself was sent headlong by 
one-armed Alexei's iron fist. Scenes from the 

15—1933 225 

fight passed before Darya's eyes like scraps of 
coloured rag. Without surprise she saw Mitka, 
on his knees, sweep Mokhov's legs from un- 
der him with the iron bar. Mokhov threw out 
his arms and crawled like a crab to the weigh- 
ing-shed, there to be kicked and trodden under- 
foot. Darya laughed hysterically, the black 
arches of her painted brows cracked with her 
laughter. But she stopped abruptly as she saw 
Pyotr; swaying, he had made his way out of the 
heaving, yelling mob, and was lying under a 
cart, spitting blood. Darya ran to him with a 
shriek. Cossacks came hurrying from the vil- 
lage with stakes; one of them flourished a crow- 
bar. The fighting was taking on fantastic pro- 
portions. It was no mere tavern brawl or Shrove- 
tide fisticuffs between villages. At the door of 
the weighing-shed a young Ukrainian lay with 
a broken head in a pool of blood; bloody 
strands of hair fell over his face. It looked as 
though he was departing his pleasant life. 

Herded together like sheep, the Ukrainians 
were slowly being driven towards the unload- 
ing-shed. Things would have taken a bad turn, 
had not an old Ukrainian had an inspiration. 
Darting into the shed, he pulled a flaming brand 
out of the furnace and ran towards the shed 
where the milled grain was stored: a thousand 
poods and more of flour. Smoke streamed over 


his shoulder like muslin and sparks, daylight- 
dimmed, scattered about. 

"I'll set it afire!" he screamed, raising the 
crackling brand towards the thatched roof. 

The Cossacks wavered and came to a halt. A 
dry, blustering wind was blowing from the 
east, carrying the smoke away from the roof 
of the shed towards the group of Ukrainians. 
One goodly spark in the dry rush thatch, and 
the whole village would go up in flames. 

A low murmur arose from the Cossacks. Some 
of them began to back away towards the mill, 
while the Ukrainian, waving the brand above 
his head and scattering fiery rain, shouted: 

"I'll burn it! I'll burn it! Out of the yard!" 

With fresh red-blue bruises on his scarred 
face Horseshoe Yakov, the man who had start- 
ed the fight, was the first to leave the yard. The 
other Cossacks streamed hurriedly after him. 
Throwing their sacks hastily on to their wagons, 
the Ukrainians harnessed their horses, then, 
standing up in their wagons, waving the ends 
of the leather reins around their heads, and 
whipping up their horses frantically, they tore 
out of the yard and away from the village. 

One-armed Alexei stood in the middle of the 
yard, his empty knotted sleeve jerking on his 
hard flat belly, his eye and cheek twitching as 

15* 227 

"To horse, Cossacks!" 

"After them!" 

"They'll not go far." 

Mitka Korshunov, the worse for wear, made 
as if to dash out of the yard. A fresh ripple of 
disturbance passed over the crowd of Cossacks 
round the mill. But at that moment an unfamil- 
iar figure in a black hat appeared from the 
engine room and approached the group with 
hasty steps; his piercing eyes narrowed into 
slits darted over the crowd as he raised his hand 
and shouted: 


"Who are you?" Yakov demanded, scowling. 

"Where'd you spring from?" 

"Bash him!" 

"Stop, villagers!" 

"Who are you calling villagers, you bob- 

"Muzhik. Give him one, Yakov!" 

"The dirty bumpkin!" 

"That's right, black his eyes for him!" 

The man smiled diffidently, but without a 
sign of fear. He took off his hat and wiped his 
brow with a gesture of complete simplicity; 
his smile was utterly disarming. 

"What's the matter?" he asked, waving his 
hat at the blood by the door of the weighing- 


"We've been beating up the khokhols," one- 
armed Alexei replied peaceably, eye and cheek 

"But what for?" 

"They wanted to go out of turn/' Yakov ex- 
plained, stepping forward and wiping a clot of 
blood from his nose with a sweep of the arm. 

"We gave 'em something to remember us by." 

"Pity we didn't go after them. . . . Nothing to 
burn in the steppe." 

"We got scared, he wouldn't have dared set 
fire to it." 

"He'd have done it all right, he was desper- 

"The khokhols are a mighty bad-tempered 
lot," Afonka Ozerov said with a grin. 

The waved his hat in Ozerov's direction. 
"And who are you?" 

Ozerov spat contemptuously through his 
widely-spaced teeth, and, watching the flight of 
the spittle, planted his feet apart. 

"I'm Cossack. But you . . . what are you, a 


"You and I are both Russians." 

"You're lying," Afonka declared deliberately. 

"The Cossacks are descended from the Rus- 
sians. Do you know that?" 

"And I tell you the Cossacks are the sons of 


"Long ago," the man explained, "serfs ran 
away from the landowners and settled along the 
Don, They came to be known as Cossacks." 

"Go your own way, man!" Alexei said with 
restrained anger, clenching his ■ heavy fist and 
blinking hard. 

"The swine wants to make muzhiks out of us ! 
Who is he?" 

"He's the new fellow living with cross-eyed 
Lukeshka," another explained. 

But the moment for pursuit of the Ukrainians 
was past. The Cossacks dispersed, animatedly 
discussing the fight. 

That night, in the steppe some eight versts 
from the village, as Grigory wrapped himself 
in his thick prickly sheepskin, he said wistfully 
to Natalya: 

"You're a stranger, somehow! You're like that 
moon, you neither chill a man, nor warm him. 
I don't love you, Natalya; you mustn't be an- 
gry, I didn't want to say anything about it, but 
there it is; we can't go on like this. I'm sorry 
for you; it looked as if we were coming closer 
lately, but I can't feel anything in my heart. 
It's just empty. Like the steppe tonight." 

Natalya stared up at the inaccessible starry 
pastures, at the shadowy, ghost-like cloak of 
the clouds floating above her, and was silent. 


From somewhere in the bluish-black wilderness 
above a belated flight of cranes called to each 
other with voices like little silver bells. 

The withered grass had a sad, dead smell 
about it. On a hillock flickered the ruddy glow 
of a ploughman's camp-fire. 

Grigory awoke just before dawn. A three- 
inch layer of snow covered his sheepskin. The 
steppe was hidden beneath the shimmering, vir- 
ginal blue of the fresh fall; the clearly-marked 
tracks of a hare that had lost its way on the 
first snow ran close by the spot where he lay. 


For many years past, if a Cossack travelled 
alone along the road to Millerovo and fell in 
with Ukrainians (the Ukrainian villages began 
at Lower Yablonovsky and stretched for seven- 
ty-five versts, as far as Millerovo), he had been 
obliged to yield them the road, or they would 
set about him. So the Cossacks were in the 
habit of driving to the railway station in 
groups, and then they were not afraid of fall- 
ing in with Ukrainians out in the steppe and 
exchanging invective: 

"Hey, khokhol! Give us the road! Think you 
can live on the Cossacks' land, you swine, and 
not let them pass!" 


The Ukrainians, who had to cart their grain 
to the elevator at Paramonovo on the Don, were 
not to be envied either. Fights would break out 
without cause, simply because they were "kho- 
khols," and once a man was a "khokhol," he had 
to be beaten up. 

Many centuries ago a diligent hand had sown 
the seeds of caste hatred in the Cossack land 
and cultivated them with care, and the seed had 
yielded rich fruit. The earth flowed with the 
blood shed in these brawls between Cossack 
and newcomer from the Ukraine and Russia. 

Some two weeks after the battle of the mill 
a district police officer and an inspector arrived 
in the village. Stockman was the first to be ex- 
amined. Rummaging in his brief case, the inspec- 
tor, a young official from the Cossack nobility, 
asked him: "Where were you living before you 
came here?" 

"At Rostov." 

"What were you imprisoned for in 1907?" 

Stockman's eyes glided over the inspector's 
brief case and his bowed head with its scurfy 
side parting. 

"For disturbances." 

"Hm! Where were you working then?" 

"At the railway workshops," 

"What as?" 



"You're not a Jew, are you? Or a converted 

"No. I think " 

"I'm not interested in what you think. Have 
you been in exile?" 

"Yes, I have." 

The inspector raised his head, and bit his 
clean-shaven, pimply lips. 

"I advise you to clear out of this district," he 
said, adding to himself, "and I'll see to it that 
you do." 

"Why, inspector?" 

The answer was another question. 

"What did you talk to the Cossacks about on 
the day of the fight at the mill?" 

"Well. . . ." 

"All right, you can go." 

Stockman went out on to the verandah of 
Mokhov's house (the authorities always made 
the merchant's house their headquarters) and 
glanced back at the painted double doors with 
a shrug. 


Winter came on slowly. After Intercession 
the snow melted and the herds were driven 
out to pasture again. For a week a south wind 
blew, warming the earth; a late stunted green 
gave a last bright gleam in the steppe. The thaw 


lasted until St. Michael's Day, then the frost 
returned and heavy snow fell, and the vegetable 
patches by the Don, where the snow had drift- 
ed to the top of the fences, were criss-crossed 
with the marks of hares' feet. The streets were 

The smoke of dung fuel hung low over the 
village, and rooks pecked about on the heaps 
of ash scattered by the roadside. The smooth 
sledge-track wound in a faded grey-blue rib- 
bon through the village. 

A village assembly was to be held to arrange 
for the allotment and cutting of brushwood. The 
Cossacks crowded round the steps of the vil- 
lage administration in their sheepskins and 
greatcoats, until the cold drove them inside. Be- 
hind a table, beside the ataman and clerk, the 
respected village elders with their silvery beards 
were gathered; the younger Cossacks with 
beards of various colours and those with no 
beard at all stood round in groups and muttered 
to one another out of the warmth of their coat 
collars. The clerk covered sheet after sheet of pa- 
per with close writing, while the ataman 
watched over his shoulder, and a restrained hum 
filled the chilly room, 

"The hay this year. . . ," 

"Aye, the meadow hay is good, but the 
steppe hay is all clover," 


"In the old days they'd be grazing in the 
steppe till Christmas." 

"That was all right for the Kalmyks." 

A throaty cough. 

"The ataman's getting a neck like a wolf's 
on him. So fat he can't turn his head." 

"Fed himself up like a pig, the devil!" 

"Hullo, Grandpa, trying to scare the winter 
away? What a sheepskin you've got on!" 

"Time for the gypsy to sell his coat soon." 

"Did ye hear of the gypsy lad who spent the 
night in the steppe and hadn't anything to cover 
himself with except a fishing net? When the cold 
started creeping round his guts, he wakes up, 
pushes his finger through a loop in the net and 
says to his mother: 'So that's where the 
draught's coming from. I thought it was chilly.' " 

"I fear we'll have some slippery days soon." 

"Better get the oxen shod." 

"I've been cutting the willows down in Devil's 
gully. Good stuff there." 

"Button your fly, Zakhar. If you get frost- 
bite, your woman'll turn you out of the house," 

"What's this I hear about you taking over 
one of the common bulls, Avdeyich?" 

"I decided not to. That Parasha woman's 
going to take care of it. I'm a widow, she says, 
the more the merrier. All right, I says, it may 
give you an addition to the family, , , ." 



"Now, elders! What about the wood-cutting? 
Quiet there!" 

"Yes, I says, if you get an addition, you'll 
need a godfather." 

"A little quieter, please." 

The meeting began. Toying with his rod of 
office, the ataman called out the names, pluck- 
ing icicles out of his beard with his little finger. 
Now and then the door slammed at the back of 
the room and people squeezed in amid clouds 
of cold air. 

"You can't fix the wood-cutting for Thurs- 
day!" Ivan Tomilin attempted to shout down 
the ataman and rubbed his purple ears, cock- 
ing his head in its blue artillery cap on one 

"Why not?" 

"You'll rub your ears off, gunner!" somebody 
called out. 

"We'll sew on a pair of bull's ears for him." 

"On Thursday half the village will be going 
out to bring in hay. A fine way to arrange 
things. . , ." 

"You can leave that till Sunday!" 


"What now!" 

"Good luck to him!" 

A howl of derision arose from the assembly. 


Old Matvei Kashulin leaned across the rick- 
ety table and, pointing his smooth ash stick 
at Tomilin, croaked furiously. 

"The hay can wait! It's for the community to 
say. Ye're always agin everybody else. Ye're 
a young fool, my lad! And that's that!" 

"You've got no brains to boast about, any- 
way . . ." one-armed Alexei joined in, his disfig- 
ured cheek twitching. For six years he had 
been quarreling with old Kashulin over a strip 
of land. Alexei beat up the old man every 
spring, although the strip that Kashulin had 
grabbed was not big enough to swing a cat in 

"Shut up, jelly-face!" 

"Pity you're out of my reach, or I'd bloody 
your nose for you," Alexei threatened, 
"Why, you one-armed twitcher. . .!" 
"Now then, enough of this bickering. , . ." 
"Go outside if you want to try your strength." 
"Chuck it, Alexei, look how the old fellow's 
bristling up, he'll lose his hat in a minute." 
"Put 'em in the cooler if they won't behave." 
The table groaned as the ataman brought his 
heavy fist down on it with a crash. 

"I'll call the watchman in in a moment, if 
there isn't silence." When order was restored, 
he added: "Wood-cutting will begin on Thurs- 
day at dawn." 


"Well, what do you say, elders?" 

"Good luck to it!" 

"God grant it!" 

"They don't listen much to the old folk now- 

"They'll listen all right. Do they think they 
can do what they like? My Alexander, when I 
gave him his portion, he wanted to start a fight 
over it, laid hands on me, he did. I put him in 
his place though. 'I'll go to the ataman this 
minute,' I says, 'and have you thrashed, . . .' 
That cooled him off all right. . . ." 

"And one other thing, elders. I've received an 
order from the district ataman." The village 
ataman raised his voice and twisted his neck; 
the stiff collar of his uniform was cutting into 
his chin, "Next Saturday the youngsters are to 
go to be sworn in at the district ataman's of- 
fice. They are to be there by the afternoon." 

Pantelei Prokofyevich was standing by the 
window nearest the door, holding up his lame 
leg like a crane. At his side Miron Grigorye- 
vich was sitting on the window-sill, smiling into 
his ruddy beard. His short fair eye-lashes were 
fluffed with hoar-frost, his big brown freckles 
had turned grey in the cold. The younger Cos- 
sacks were crowded close by, winking and smil- 
ing at one another. In the middle of their 
group, his blue-topped quardsman's cap thrust 


back on his smooth bald head, his unageing 
face everlastingly blushing like a ruddy winter 
apple, stood Avdeyich Sinilin, 

Avdeyich had served in the Ataman's Life- 
guards, and had come back with the nick- 
name "Braggart." He had been one of the first in 
the village to be assigned to the Ataman's Reg- 
iment. He had always been a little queer in 
the head, but on active service something very 
strange had happened to him. From the very 
first day of his return he had begun to tell as- 
tonishing stories of service at the court and his 
extraordinary adventures in St. Petersburg. 
His astounded listeners at first believed him, 
drinking it all in with gaping mouths, but then 
they discovered that Avdeyich was the biggest 
liar the village had ever produced, and they 
openly laughed at him. But he was not to be 
abashed (although he was always so red in the 
face you could never tell if he was blushing), 
and did not give up his lying. As he grew older 
he began to get annoyed when caught out in a 
lie, and would resort to his fists; but if his lis- 
teners only laughed and said nothing he grew 
more and more expansive in his story-telling. 

As far as his farming was concerned he was 
a practical and hard-working Cossack, in every- 
thing he acted sensibly, sometimes cunningly, 
but when the subject turned to his service in 


the Lifeguards-everyone simply threw up their 
hands and doubled up with laughter. 

Avdeyich stood in the middle of the room, 
rocking on his heels. Glancing round the as- 
sembled Cossacks, he observed in his ponder- 
ous, bass voice: 

"Speaking of service, these days the Cossacks 
aren't at all what they were. They're just 
shrimps, no size at all. You could crack any one 
of 'em in half just by sneezing at him. But . . .'' 
and he smiled contemptuously, "I saw some 
Cossack skeletons once! Ah! They were Cos- 
sacks in those days!" 

"Where did you dig the skeletons up, Av- 
deyich?" smooth-faced Anikushka asked, 
nudging his neighbour. 

"Don't start telling any of your lies, Avdey- 
ich, with the Holy Day so near," Pantelei said, 
wrinkling up his nose and tugging his ear-ring. 
He did not like Avdeyich's bragging habits. 

"It isn't in my nature to lie, brother," Avdey- 
ich replied firmly, and stared in astonishment 
at Anikushka, who was shaking as though with 
fever. "I saw these skeletons when we were 
building a house for my brother-in-law. As we 
were digging the foundation we came to a 
grave. So down here by the Don, next the 
church there must have been a cemetery in the 
old days," 


"Well, what about the skeletons?" Pantelei 
asked impatiently, getting ready to go, 

"Arms-that long." Avdeyich said extending 
both his rake-like arms. "Head as big as a caul- 
dron-true as I live!" 

"You'd better tell the youngsters how you 
caught a robber in St. Petersburg," Miron sug- 
gested, as he rose from the window-sill. 

"There's nothing really to tell," Avdeyich re- 
plied, affected by a sudden attack of modesty 

"Tell us, tell us, Avdeyich!" 

"Well, it was like this," Avdeyich cleared 
his throat and drew his tobacco pouch out of 
his trouser pocket. He replaced the two copper 
coins that had dropped out of the pouch, 
poured a pinch of tobacco on to his palm, and 
ran a beaming eye over his audience. "Some vil- 
lain had escaped from prison. They looked for 
him all over the place, but do you think they 
could find him? They just couldn't. All the au- 
thorities were beaten. 

"Well, one night the officer of the guard calls 
me to him: 'Go into the imperial palace,' he 
says. 'His Imperial Majesty wants to see you.' 
So in I went. I stood to attention, but he claps 
me on the shoulder and says: 'Listen!' he says, 
'Ivan Avdeyich, the biggest villain in our king- 
dom has done a bunk. Find him, even if you 
have to stand on your head to do it. And don't 

16—1933 241 

let me see you till you have!' 'Very good. Your 
Imperial Majesty!' I says. Yes, lads, that was a 
facer. ... So I took three of the best horses in 
the tsar's stables and set out." 

Lighting a cigarette, Avdeyich surveyed the 
bowed heads of his listeners and, warming to 
his subject, boomed out of the cloud of smoke 
enveloping his face: 

"I rode all day, and I rode all night, until on 
the third day I came up with the villain near 
Moscow. I clapped the bird into my coach, and 
hauled him back to St. Petersburg. I arrived at 
midnight, all covered with mud, and went 
straight to His Imperial Majesty himself. All 
sorts of counts and princes tried to stop me, but 
in I marched. Hm. . . . Well, I knocks at the 
door. 'May I come in. Your Imperial Majesty?' 
'Who is it?' 'It's me,' I says, 'Ivan Avdeyich Si- 
nilin.' I heard a noise in the room, and heard 
His Majesty himself cry out: 'Maria Fyodo- 
rovna, Maria Fyodorovna! Get up quick and 
get a samovar going. Ivan Avdeyich has 
arrived.' " 

There was a roar of laughter from the Cos- 
sacks at the back of the crowd. The clerk, who 
had been reading a notice about stray cattle, 
stopped in the middle of a sentence, and the 
ataman stretched out his neck like a goose and 
stared hard at the guffawing crowd. 


Avdeyich's face clouded and his eyes wan- 
dered uncertainly over the faces before him. 

"Wait a bit!" 


"Oh, he'll be the death of us!" 

" 'Get a samovar going! Avdeyich has ar- 
rived!' Ha-ha-ha!" 

The assembly began to break up. A constant 
steady creaking rose from the frozen steps of 
the administration house. On the trampled snow 
outside Stepan Astakhov and a tall, long- 
slianked Cossack, the owner of the windmill, 
were wrestling to get themselves warm. 

The Cossacks gathered round shouting ad- 

"Throw him, the heathen!" 

"Knock the stuffing out of him, Stepan!" 

"Don't grab him there! Think you're clever!" 
old Kashulin shouted, hopping about like a 
sparrow; and in his excitement he failed to no- 
tice a large bright dewdrop hanging shyly from 
the tip of his bluish nose, 


When Pantelei returned from the meeting he 
went at once to the room which he and his wife 
occupied. Ilyinichna had been unwell for some 
days, and her puffy face reflected her weariness 

16* 243 

and pain. She lay propped up high on a plump 
feather bed with a pillow at her back. At the 
sound of Pantelei's footsteps she turned her 
head; her eyes rested on his breath-dampened 
beard and matted whiskers with the look of 
severity that had become a habit with her, and 
her nostrils twitched. But the old man smelled 
only of frost and sour sheepskin. "Sober to- 
day," she thought, and contentedly laid down 
her knitting-needles. 

"Well, what about the wood-cutting?" 

"They've decided to begin on Thursday." 
Pantelei stroked his moustache. "Thursday 
morning," he added, sitting down on a chest at 
the side of the bed. "Well, feeling any better?" 

"Just the same. Shooting pains in all my 

"I told you not to go into the water, you fool. 
And in autumn too ! You knew what would hap- 
pen," Pantelei fumed, tracing broad circles on 
the floor with his stick. "There were plenty of 
other women to ret that hemp, curse the stuff 
. . . curse it all!" 

"I couldn't let the hemp be wasted. There 
weren't any women. Grisha was out ploughing 
with his. Pyotr and Darya had gone off some- 

The old man blew into his cupped hands and 
bent towards the bed. 


"And how's Natalya?" 

There was a note of anxiety in Ilyinichna's 
voice as she replied: 

"I don't know what to do. She was crying 
again the other day. I went out in the yard 
and found someone had left the bam door wide 
open. I went up to shut it, and there she was 
standing by the millet bin. I asked her what 
was the matter, but she said she only had a 
headache. I can't get the truth out of her." 

"Maybe she's poorly?" 

"I don't think so. Either someone's given her 
the evil eye, or else it's Grisha. . . ." 

"He hasn't taken up again with that woman, 
by any chance?" 

"Goodness, no! What a thing to say!" Ilyi- 
nichna exclaimed in alarm. "What do you take 
Stepan for-a fool? No, I haven't heard any- 

Pantelei sat with his wife a little longer, then 
went out. Grigory was in his room sharpening 
fishing hooks with a file. Natalya was smear- 
ing them with lard, and carefully wrapping 
each in a separate rag. As Pantelei limped by 
he stared at her inquisitively. Her sallow cheeks 
were flushed like an autumn leaf. She had 
grown noticeably thinner during the past 
month, and there was a new, wretched look in 
her eyes. The old man paused at the door. 


"He's killing the girl!" he thought, as he glanced 
back at Natalya's smooth head bowed over 
the bench. Grigory sat near the window. His 
black tousled forelock jerked with every stroke 
of the file. 

"Drop that, devil take you!" the old man 
shouted, turning livid in a sudden frenzy. Gri- 
gory looked up startled. 

"I've got two more points to sharpen. Dad." 

"Drop it, I tell you! Get ready for the wood- 
cutting. The sledges aren't ready at all, and you 
sit there sharpening hooks," he added more 
quietly, and lingered at the door, evidently 
wanting to say something else. But he went out. 
Grigory heard him giving vent to the rest of 
his anger on Pyotr. 

As Grigory pulled on his coat, he heard his 
father shouting in the yard: 

"Haven't you watered the cattle yet, you 
young lounger? And who's been meddling with 
that stack by the fence? Didn't I say it wasn't 
to be touched? You'll use up all the best hay, 
damn you, then what will you feed the bullocks 
on in spring?" 

A good two hours before dawn on Thursday, 
Ilyinichna woke Darya: "Get up! Time to light 
the fire!" 

Darya ran in her shift to the stove, found 
some matches and struck a light, 


"Get a move on!" Pyotr nagged his wife, 
coughing as he lit a cigarette. 

"They don't go and wake that Natalya up! 
Am I to tear myself in two?" Darya grumbled 
crossly, still only half-awake. 

"Go and wake her up yourself," Pyotr advised 
her. But the advice was unnecessary, for Na- 
talya was already up. Pulling on her blouse, 
she went out to get fuel for the fire. 

"Fetch some kindling," her sister-in-law com- 

"Tell Dunya to fetch the water, Darya, do 
you hear?" Ilyinichna called hoarsely, moving 
about the kitchen with difficulty. 

The kitchen smelled of fresh hops, harness, 
and the warmth of human bodies. Darya shuf- 
fled about in her felt boots, rattling the pots; 
under her pink shift her small breasts quivered. 
Married life had not soured or withered her. 
Tall and slender, supple as a willow switch, she 
looked like a girl. 

She walked with a twisting movement of the 
shoulders; she laughed at the shouts of her hus- 
band; a firm row of small close-set teeth 
showed under the fine rim of her shrewish 

"You ought to have brought some fuel- 
bricks in overnight. They would have dried in 
the stove," Ilyinichna grumbled. 


"I forgot. Mother, It can't be helped," Darya 

Dawn broke before the meal was ready. Pan- 
telei hurried over his breakfast,. blowing on the 
thin porridge. Grigory ate slowly and moodily, 
his jaw muscles working up and down, and 
Pyotr, unnoticed by his father, amused himself 
with teasing Dunya, who was suffering with 
toothache and had her face bound up. 

The sound of sledge-runners was heard from 
the street. Bullock sledges were moving down 
to the river in the grey dawn. Grigory and 
Pyotr went out to harness their sledges. As he 
went Grigory wound a soft scarf, his wife's 
gift, around his neck, and gulped in the dry 
frosty air. A raven flew overhead with a full, 
throaty cry. The swish of its slowly flapping 
wings could be heard distinctly in the frosty 
stillness. Pyotr watched its flight and re- 
marked : 

"Flying south, to the warm." 

Behind a rosy little cloud, as gay as a girl- 
ish smile, a tiny slip of moon gleamed dimly. 
The smoke from the chimneys rose in columns, 
reaching towards the inaccessibly distant, gold- 
en pointed blade of the waning moon: 

The river was not quite frozen over opposite 
the Melekhovs' house. Along the edges of the 
stream the ice was firm and green under drifts 


of snow. But beyond the middle where springs 
flowed from the Black Bank, a gap in the ice 
yawned sombre and menacing out of the cor- 
roded whiteness. The water was freckled with 
the wild duck that were wintering there. 

Pantelei drove off first with the old bullocks, 
leaving his sons to follow later. On the slope 
down to the river-crossing Pyotr and Grigory 
caught up with Anikushka. With a new axe 
handle sticking out of his sledge, and wearing 
a broad green sash he was walking at the side 
of his bullocks, while his wife, a stunted sickly 
woman, held the reins. 

"Hullo, neighbour, surely you're not taking 
your woman with you?" Pyotr shouted to him. 

Anikushka, hopping up and down to keep 
warm, grinned and went over to the brothers. 

"Yes, I am, to keep me warm." 

"You'll get no warmth from her, she's too 

"That's true; and I feed her with oats, but 
still she doesn't fatten!" 

"Shall we be cutting in the same strip?" Gri- 
gory asked, jumping off the sledge. 

"Yes, if you'll give me a smoke." 

"You've always been a scrounger, Anikushka." 

"The sweetest things in life are begged and 
stolen," Anikushka chuckled, wrinkling his 
hairless womanish face in a smile. 


The three drove on together. The forest was 
laced with rime, and of a virgin whiteness. Ani- 
kushka rode in front, lashing his whip against 
the branches overhead. The needle-sharp snow 
crystals showered down on his wife. 

"Don't play about, you devil!" she shouted at 
him, as she shook the snow off. 

"Drop her into the snow head first," Pyotr 
advised trying to get his whip under the bul- 
lock's belly to speed its pace. 

At a turn of the road they met Stepan Asta- 
khov driving two yoked bullocks back towards 
the village. The leather soles of his felt boots 
squeaked on the snow as he strode along. His 
curly forelock hung below his fur cap like a 
bunch of white grapes. 

"Hey, Stepan, lost your way?" Anikushka 
shouted as he passed. 

"Lost my way be damned! We swung over, 
and the sledge snapped its runner on a stump. 
So I've got to go back," Stepan cursed obscene- 
ly and his fierce light eyes narrowed insolently 
as he passed Pyotr. 

"Left your sledge behind?" Anikushka asked, 
turning round. 

Ignoring the remark, Stepan cracked his 
whip at the bullocks that were heading away 
from the track and gave Grigory a long hard 
stare as he passed on. A little farther on the 


group came to a sledge abandoned in the middle 
of the road. Aksinya was standing by it. Hold- 
ing down the edge of her sheepskin with her 
left hand, she was gazing along the road in 
their direction. 

"Out of the way or I'll run you over. Oho, 
you're the wife for me!" Anikushka roared. Ak- 
sinya stepped aside with a smile, and sat down 
on the overturned sledge. 

"You've got your own wife with you." 

"Yes, she sticks to me like a burr on a pig's 
tail, otherwise I'd give you a lift." 

"Thank you kindly." 

As Pyotr came up to her he gave a quick 
glance back at Grigory. Grigory was smiling 
uncertainly, anxiety and expectation expressed 
in all his movements. 

"Good health to you, neighbour," Pyotr greet- 
ed her, touching his cap with his mitten. 

"Praise be." 

"What, sledge broken?" Pyotr asked. 

"Yes, it is," she replied slowly without look- 
ing at Pyotr, and rising to her feet, turned 
towards Grigory. "Grigory Panteleyevich, 
I'd like a word with you," she said as he 
came up. 

Asking Pyotr to look after his bullocks for 
a moment, Grigory turned to her. Pyotr 
laughed suggestively, and drove on. 


The two stood silently regarding each other. 
Aksinya glanced cautiously around, then turned 
her liquid black eyes again to Grigory's 
face. Shame and joy flamed in her cheeks and 
dried her lips. Her breath came in sharp gasps. 

At a turn in the road Anikushka and Pyotr 
disappeared behind the brown oak trunks. 

Grigory looked straight into Aksinya's eyes 
and saw in them a spark of stubborn reckless- 

"Well, Grisha, do as you please, but I can't 
live without you," she said firmly, and pressed 
her lips together waiting for his answer. 

Grigory made no reply. The forest was locked 
in silence. A glassy emptiness rang in his ears. 
The surface of the road, polished smooth by 
sledge-runners, the grey rag of sky, the forest, 
dumb, deathly drowsy. ... A sudden cry of a 
raven near by seemed to rouse Grigory from 
his momentary lethargy. He raised his head 
and watched the bird winging away in silent 
flight. He was surprised when he heard him- 
self say: 

"It's going to be warm. He's making for the 
warm." He seemed to shake himself and laughed 
hoarsely. "Well. . . ." He turned his intoxi- 
cated eyes furtively on Aksinya, and suddenly 
snatched her to him. 



During the winter evenings a little group 
of villagers gathered in Stockman's room at Lu- 
keshka's house. There were Christonya, and 
Knave from the mill, a greasy jacket draped 
over his shoulders, the ever-smiling David (now 
three months a loafer), the engineman, Ivan 
Alexeyevich Kotlyarov, sometimes Filka the 
cobbler, and always Misha Koshevoi, a young 
Cossack who had not yet done his regular army 

At first the group played cards. Then Stock- 
man casually brought out a book of Nekrasov's 
poetry. They began to read the volume aloud, 
and liked it. Then they went on to Nikitin, and 
about Christmas-time Stockman suggested the 
reading of a dog-eared, unbound booklet. 
Koshevoi, who had been to the church school 
and could read aloud, glanced contemptuously 
at the greasy pages. 

"You could make noodles of it, it's so 
greasy," he said in disgust. 

Christonya roared with laughter; David 
smiled dazzlingly. But Stockman waited for 
the merriment to die away, and then said: 

"Read it, Misha. It's interesting. It's all 
about the Cossacks." 


Bending his head over the table, Koshevoi 
spelt out laboriously: 

"A Short History oi the Don Cossacks," and 
then glanced around expectantly. 

"Read it!" Kotlyarov said. 

They laboured through the book for three 
evenings, reading about the free life of the 
past, about Pugachov, Stenka Razin and Kon- 
draty Bulavin. Finally they came down to re- 
cent times. The unknown author poured scorn 
on the Cossacks' miserable existence; scoffed 
at the authorities and the system, the tsar's 
government and the Cossackry itself which 
had hired itself out to the monarchs as their 
henchmen. The listeners grew excited and be- 
gan to quarrel among themselves. Christonya, 
his head touching the roof-beam, spoke up in 
his booming voice. Stockman sat at the door, 
smoking a pipe, his eyes smiling. 

"He's right! It's all true!" Christonya burst 

"It's not our fault such shame was brought 
upon the Cossacks." Koshevoi spread his arms 
in perplexity and puckered up his handsome 

He was thick-set, broad in the shoulders and 
hips, almost square. From the cast-iron founda- 
tion of his body rose a firm brick-red neck on 
which his small, gracefully set head looked 


strange, with its effeminately soft cheeks, small 
obstinate mouth and dark eyes under the 
golden slab of curly hair. 

The engineman Kotlyarov, a tall thin Cos- 
sack, was steeped to the bone in Cossack tra- 
ditions, and his round protruding eyes flashed 
as he vigorously defended the Cossacks: 

"You're a muzhik, Christonya, you've only got 
a drop of Cossack blood in you to a bucketful 
of water. Your mother was mated with a mu- 
zhik from Voronezh." 

"You're a fool, you're a fool, brother!" 
Christonya boomed. "I stand for the truth." 

"I wasn't in the Lifeguards," Kotlyarov 
said slyly. "They're all fools there." 

"There are some pretty hopeless cases in 
the rest of the army too." 

"Shut up, muzhik!" 

"And aren't the muzhiks just as much men 
as you?" 

"They're muzhiks, they're made of bast and 
stuffed with brushwood." 

"When I was serving in Petersburg, brother, 
I saw many things," Christonya said, his 
southern accent coming out strongly. "Once it 
happened that we were on guard at the tsar's 
palace, inside and outside. We used to ride 
round the walls on horseback, two this way 
and two that. When we met we used to ask: 


'All quiet, no disorders anywhere?' and then 
we'd ride on. We weren't allowed to stop and 
talk. And they chose us for our looks. When 
we had to take our turn on guard at the doors 
they'd choose each pair so as they should be 
alike in their faces and their figures. Once 
the barber even had to dye my beard because 
of this stupidity. I had to take a turn at guard 
with a Cossack in our squadron with hair that 
was a kind of bay colour. Plagued if I know 
how he got like it, must have been scorched 
by a fire or something. They searched all 
through the regiment and there wasn't another 
like him. So the troop commander sent me to 
the barber to have my beard dyed. When I 
looked in the glass afterwards my heart al- 
most broke. I looked as if I was on fire. 
Honestly I did. Made my fingers sizzle to 
touch the thing!" 

"Now he's off, the old windbag. But what 
were we talking about?" Kotlyarov interrupted 

"About the people." 

"Well, tell us about them. What the blither- 
ing hell do we want to hear about your beard 

"Well, as I was saying-I once had to take 
a turn on guard outside. We were riding along, 
me and my comrade, when a mob of students 


came running round the corner. Thick as flies 
they were! As soon as they saw us they roared: 
Hah!' and then again: 'Hah!' And before we 
knew where we were they had surrounded us, 
'What are you riding about for, Cossacks?' 
they asked. And I said: 'We're keeping guard, 
and you let go those reins, young fella' ' and 
clapped my hands on my sword. 'Don't get me 
wrong, Cossack, I'm from Kamenskaya Dis- 
trict myself, and I'm studying in the uniservity, 
or the univorsity, or whatever you call it, one 
said. We make to ride on, and one fellow with 
a big nose pulls out a ten-ruble piece and says: 
'Drink to the health of my dead father,' And 
then he pulls a picture out of his pocket. 
'Look, that's my father,' he says, 'take it as a 
keepsake.' Well, we took it, we couldn't refuse. 
And they went off again. Just then a lieutenant 
comes riding out of the back gates of the 
palace with a troop of men. 'What's happened?' 
he shouts. And I tell him students had come 
and begun talking to us, and we had wanted 
to sabre them according to instructions, but as 
they had set us free we had ridden off. When 
we went off duty later, we told the corporal 
we'd earned ten rubles and wanted to drink 
them to the memory of the old man, showing 
him the picture. In the evening the corporal 
brought some vodka, and we had a good time 

17—1933 257 

for a couple of days. But afterwards we found 
out what the trick was. It turned out that this 
student, the young bastard, had given us a 
picture of the biggest trouble-maker in Ger- 
many. I had hung it over my bed; he had a 
grey beard and looked a decent sort of chap. 
But the lieutenant saw it and asked: 'Where 
did you get that picture from, you son of a 
gun?' So I told him, and he began swearing 
at me and punching me in the face: 'Do you 
know who that is? He's their ataman Karl. . . .' 
Drat it, I've forgotten his name. Now, what 
was it. . . ?" 

"Karl Marx?" Stockman suggested with a 
broad smile. 

"That's it, Karl Mars," Christonya exclaimed 
joyfully. "He got me into trouble all right. 
Why, sometimes the tsarevich Alexei and his 
tutors used to come into the guardroom. They 
might have seen it. What would have happened 

"And you keep praising the muzhiks. What 
a trick they played on you," Kotlyarov 

"But we drank the ten rubles. It was the 
bearded Karl we drank to, but we drank all 
the same!" 

"He deserves to be drunk to," Stockman 
smiled, playing with his cigarette-holder. 


"Why, what good did he do?" Koshevoi 

"I'll tell you another time, it's getting late 
now." Stockman held the holder between his 
fingers, and ejected the dead cigarette-end with 
a slap from the other hand. 

After long sifting and testing, a little group 
of ten Cossacks began to meet regularly in 
Stockman's workshop. Stockman was the heart 
and soul of the group and he worked straight 
towards a goal that only he fully understood. 
He ate into the simple understandings and 
conceptions like a worm into wood, instilling 
repugnance and hatred towards the existing 
system. At first he found himself confronted 
with the cold steel of distrust, but he was not 
to be repulsed. Even that could be worn away. 


On the sandy slope of the left bank of the 
Don lies Vyeshenskaya stanitsa, the most an- 
cient stanitsa of the upper Don. Originally 
called Chigonaki, it was moved to a new 
site after being sacked during the reign of 
Peter the First, and renamed Vyeshenskaya, 
It was formerly an important link along 
the great water-way from Voronezh to Azov. 

Opposite Vyeshenskaya the Don bends like 

17* 259 

a Tatar bow, turns sharply to the right, and 
by the little village of Bazki majestically 
straightens again, carries its greenish-blue 
waters over the chalky base of the hills on the 
west bank, then, with thickly-clustered villages 
on the right and occasional stanitsas on the 
left, down to the sea, to the blue Sea of Azov. 

At Ust-Khoperskaya it joins with its tribu- 
tary the Khoper, and at Ust-Medveditskaya, 
with the Medveditsa, and then it flows on deep 
and full-watered amid a riotous growth of 
populous villages and stanitsas. 

The stanitsa of Vyeshenskaya stands among 
yellow sand-drifts. It is a bald cheerless place 
without orchards. In the square stands an old 
church, grey with age, and six streets run out 
of the square in lines parallel with the river. 
Where the Don bends towards Bazki, a lake, 
about as wide as the Don in the dry season, 
branches off into a thicket of poplars. The far 
end of Vyeshenskaya slopes down to this lake, 
and in a smaller square, overgrown with golden 
prickly thorn, is a second church, with green 
cupolas and green roof, matching the green of 
the poplars on the other side of the lake. 

Beyond the village to the north stretches a 
saffron waste of sands, a stunted pine planta- 
tion, and creeks whose water is pink from the 
red-clay soil. Here and there in the sandy 


wilderness are rare oases of villages, meadow- 
land, and a rusty scrub of willows. 

One Sunday in December a dense crowd of 
five hundred young Cossacks from all the vil- 
lages in the district was assembled in the 
square outside the old church. Mass ended, the 
senior sergeant, a gallant old Cossack with 
long-service decorations, gave an order, and 
the youngsters drew up in two long straggling 
ranks. Sergeants rushed to and fro to get them 
dressed off. 

"Ranks!" the sergeant boomed and making 
a vague gesture with his hand, snapped: "Form 

The ataman entered the churchyard, dressed 
according to form and wearing a new officer's 
greatcoat, his spurs jingling, and followed by 
the military policeman, 

Grigory Melekhov who was standing next to 
Mitka Korshunov heard him whisper: 

"My boot pinches like hell." 

"Stick it out, they'll make you an ata- 

"We'll be going inside soon." 

As if to confirm this, the senior sergeant fell 
back a pace or two, turned sharply on his heels 
and shouted: 

"Right turn. Forward march!" 

The column filed through the wide-open 


gate, and the church dome rang with the sound 
of tramping feet. 

Grigory paid no attention to the words of 
the oath of allegiance being read by the priest. 
By his side stood Mitka Korshunov, his face 
contorted with the pain of his tight new boots. 
Grigory's upraised arm grew numb, an aching 
jumble of thoughts was running through his 
mind. As he came up to the crucifix and kissed 
the silver, damp with the moisture of many 
lips, he thought of Aksinya, and of his wife 
With the suddenness of a flash of forked light- 
ning he had a vision of the forest, its brown 
trunks and branches fluffed with white down, 
and the humid gleam of Aksinya's black eyes 
under her kerchief. . . . 

When the ceremony was ended they were 
marched out into the square and were again 
drawn up in ranks. Blowing his nose and 
stealthily wiping his fingers on the lining of 
his coat, the sergeant addressed them: 

"You're not boys any longer now, you're 
Cossacks. You've taken the oath and you ought 
to understand what's what. You've grown up 
into Cossacks and you've got to guard your 
honour, obey your fathers and mothers and all 
the rest of it. You were boys once, you've had 
your fun and games-used to play tipcat in the 
road, I expect-but now you must think about 


your future service. In a year's time they'll be 
calling you up into the army. . . ." Here the 
sergeant blew his nose again, shook his hand 
clean and, drawing on his rabbit's down gloves, 
ended: "And your fathers and mothers must 
think about getting you your equipment. They 
must fit you out with an army horse, and . . . 
in general. . . . And now, home you go and God 
be with you, my lads." 

Grigory and Mitka joined up with the rest 
of the lads from their village, and they set off 
together for home. 

They walked back along the Don. The smoke 
of cottage stoves hung in wisps over the village 
of Bazki, and bells were ringing faintly. Mitka 
limped along behind the others, leaning on a 
knotty stake that he had broken out of a fence. 

"Take your boot off," one of the lads advised. 

"I'll get my foot frost-bitten," Mitka replied 

"You can keep your sock on." 

Mitka sat down on the snow and tugged off 
his boot. Then he walked on, stepping heavily 
on his stockinged foot. The thick knitted stock- 
ing made a sharp imprint in the crisp snow. 

"What road shall we take?" the stumpy 
shock-headed Alexei Beshnyak asked. 

"Along the Don," Grigory answered for 
them all. 


They walked on, talking and jostling one 
another off the road. Each of them was pulled 
over by the others, who piled on top of him. 
Between Bazki and Gromkovsky Mitka was the 
first to spot a wolf crossing the Don. 

"Look, lads, there's a wolf!" 

The young Cossacks started shouting and 
catcalling and the wolf loped off, then halted, 
standing sideways, not far from the opposite 

"Catch him!" 


"It's you he's looking at, Mitka, walking in 
your sock." 

"What a fat neck he's got!" 

"Look, there he goes!" 

The grey form stood stiffly for a moment, 
as though carved out of granite, then took a 
hurried leap and slunk away into the willows 
girding the bank. 

It was dusk when they reached the village. 
Grigory made his way along the ice to the path 
that led up to his home. A disused sledge stood 
in the yard; in a heap of brushwood piled 
near the fence the sparrows were twittering. 
He felt the smell of habitation, of charred 
soot, and the steamy odour of the stables. 

Grigory went up the steps of the house and 
glanced in at the window. The hanging lamp 


shed a dim yellow glow through the room. 
Pyotr was standing in its light with his back 
to the window. Grigory brushed the snow off 
his boots with the besom at the door, and 
entered the kitchen amid a flurry of steam. 

"Well, I'm back." 

"You've been quick. You got frozen, I ex- 
pect," Pyotr replied in an anxious and hurried 

Pantelei was sitting with his head bowed in 
his hands, his elbows on his knees. Darya was 
spinning at the droning spinning-wheel. Nata- 
lya was standing at the table with her back to 
Grigory, and did not turn round on his entry. 
Glancing hastily around the kitchen Grigory 
rested his eyes on Pyotr. His brother's agitat- 
edly expectant face told him that something 
was amiss. 

"Taken the oath?" 


Grigory took off his outdoor clothes slowly, 
playing for time, and turning over in his mind 
all the possibilities which might have led to 
this chilly and silent welcome. Ilyinichna came 
out of the best room, her face expressing her 

"It's Natalya!" Grigory thought, as he sat 
down on the bench beside his father. 

''Get him some supper," his mother said to 


Darya, indicating Grigory with her eyes. 
Darya stopped in the middle of her spinning- 
song, and went to the stove, her girlish figure 
swaying from the waist. The kitchen was en- 
gulfed in a silence broken only by the heavy 
breathing of a goat and its newly-born kid. 

As Grigory sipped his soup he glanced at 
Natalya. But he could not see her face. She was 
sitting sideways to him, her head bent over 
her knitting-needles. Pantelei was the first to 
be provoked into speech by the general silence. 
Coughing artificially, he said: 

"Natalya is talking about going back to her 

Grigory pressed some bread-crumbs into a 
ball, and said nothing. 

"And why's that?" his father asked, his 
lower lip quivering: the first sign of a coming 
outburst of frenzy. 

"I don't know," Grigory replied as he rose 
and crossed himself. 

"But I know!" his father raised his voice. 

"Don't shout, don't shout!" Ilyinichna inter- 

"Yes, there's no cause for shouting." Pyotr 
moved from the window to the middle of the 
room. "It's up to her. If she wants to stay, she 
can stay; if she doesn't, well . . . God be with 


"I'm not blaming her. Of course it's a dis- 
grace and a sin before God to leave your hus- 
band, but I don't blame her. It's not her fault, 
but that son of a bitch's." Pantelei pointed 
to Grigory who was warming himself at the 

"Who have I done wrong?" Grigory asked. 

"You don't know? You don't know, you 

"No, I don't." 

Pantelei jumped up, overturning the bench, 
and went close up to Grigory. Natalya dropped 
her stocking and the needles clattered to the 
floor. At the sound a kitten jumped down from 
the stove and, with its head on one side and 
paw curved, began to pat the ball of wool to- 
wards the chest. 

"What I say to you is this," the old man be- 
gan slowly and deliberately. "If you won't live 
with Natalya, you can clear out of this house 
and go wherever your feet will carry you. 
That's what I say to you. Go where your feet 
will carry you," he repeated in a calm voice, 
and turned and picked up the bench. 

Dunya sat on the bed, her round frightened 
eyes darting from one to the other. 

"I don't say this in anger. Dad," Grigory's 
voice was jarringly hollow. "I didn't marry of 
my own choice, it was you who married me 


off. As for Natalya, I'm not stopping her. She 
can go to her father, if she wants to." 
"You clear out yourself." 
"I will!" 

"Go to the devil!" 

"I'm going. I'm going, don't be in a hurry." 
Grigory reached for the sleeve of his short fur 
coat lying on the bed, his nostrils dilated, his 
whole body quivering with a boiling anger that 
was just like his father's. The same mingled 
Turkish and Cossack blood flowed in their 
veins, and at that moment their resemblance to 
each other was extraordinary. 

"Where are you going?" Ilyinichna groaned, 
seizing Grigory' s arm. But he pushed her away 
forcibly and snatched up his fur cap. 

"Let him go, the sinful swine! Let him go, 
curse him! Go on, go! Clear out!" the old man 
thundered throwing the door wide open. 

Grigory ran out on to the steps, and the last 
sound he heard was Natalya's loud uncontrol- 
lable weeping. 

The frosty night held the village in its grip, 
prickly snow was falling from the black sky, 
the cracking of the ice on the Don resounded 
like cannon shots. Grigory ran panting out of 
the gate. At the far end of the village dogs 
were barking discordantly, and yellow points 
of light shone through the frosty haze. 


He walked aimlessly down the street. The 
blackness of the Astakhovs' windows gleamed 
with the brilliance of a diamond. 

"Grisha!" he heard Natalya's yearning cry 
from the gate. 

"You go to hell!" Grigory grated his teeth 
and hastened his steps. 

"Grisha, come back!" 

He stumbled drunkenly into the first cross- 
lane, and for the last time heard her distant, 
anguished cry: 

"Grisha, darling. . . ." 

He swiftly crossed the square and stopped 
at a fork in the road, wondering where to 
spend the night. He decided on Misha Koshe- 
voi. Misha lived with his mother, sister and 
two little brothers in a lonely straw-thatched 
house right by the hill, Grigory entered their 
yard and knocked at the tiny window. 

"Who is it?" 

"Is Misha there?" 

"Yes, who is it wants him?" 

"It's me, Grigory Melekhov." 

After a moment, Misha, awakened from his 
first sleep, opened the door. 

"You, Grisha?" 


"What do you want at this time of night?" 

"Let me in, we'll talk inside," 


In the passage, Grigory gripped Misha's 
elbow and cursing himself for being unable to 
find the right words, whispered: "I want to 
spend the night with you. I've fallen out with 
my people. Have you got room for me? Any- 
where will do." 

"We'll fix you up somewhere. What's the row 

"I'll tell you later. , . . Where's the door 
here? I can't see it." 

They made Grigory a bed on the bench. He 
lay thinking, his head tucked under his sheep- 
skin so as not to hear the whispering of 
Misha's mother, who slept in the same bed as 
her daughter. What was happening at home 
now, he wondered. Would Natalya go back to 
her father or not? Well, life had taken a new 
turn. Where should he go? And the answer 
came swiftly. He would send for Aksinya to- 
morrow, and go with her to the Kuban, far 
away from here . . . far, far away. . . . 

Rolling steppeland, villages, stanitsas, un- 
known, unloved, floated before Grigory's 
closed eyes. And beyond the rolling hills, be- 
yond the long grey road lay a welcoming land 
of blue skies, a fairy-tale land with Aksinya's 
love, in all its rebellious late-flowering strength, 
to make it the more attractive. 


His sleep was troubled by the approaching 
unknown. Before he finally dozed off he tried 
hard to recall what it was that oppressed him. 
In his drowsy state his thoughts would flow 
easily and smoothly, like a boat going down- 
stream, then suddenly they would come up 
against something, as though the boat had 
struck a sandbank. He wrestled with the baffl- 
ing obstacle. What was it that lay in his path? 

In the morning he awoke and at once re- 
membered what it was-his army service! How 
could he go away with Aksinya? In the spring 
there was the training camp, and in the autumn 
the army draft. 

He had some breakfast, and called Misha 
out into the passage. 

"Misha, go to the Astakhovs for me, will 
you?" he said. "Tell Aksinya to come to the 
windmill this evening after dark." 

"But what about Stepan?" Misha said hesi- 

"Say you've come on some business or 

"All right, I'll go." 

"Tell her to be sure to come." 

"Oh, all right." 

In the evening Grigory went to the mill and 
sat there smoking, hiding the cigarette in his 
cuff. Beyond the mill the wind was stumbling 


over withered maize stalks. A scrap of torn 
canvas flapped on the chained and motionless 
sail. It sounded like a great bird flapping round 
the mill, unable to fly away. Aksinya did not 
appear. The sun had set in the west in a fad- 
ing, gilded lilac, from the east the wind began 
to blow freshly; darkness was overtaking the 
moon stranded among the willows. Above the 
windmill the ruddy, blue-streaked sky was 
deathly dark; the last sounds of busy day 
hovered over the village. 

He smoked three cigarettes in succession, 
thrust the last end into the trodden snow, and 
gazed round in anxious irritation. Half-thawed 
cart-tracks from the mill to the village showed 
darkly in the snow. There was no one in sight. 
He rose, stretched himself, and moved towards 
the light twinkling invitingly in Misha's 
window. He was approaching the yard, whis- 
tling through his teeth, when he stumbled into 
Aksinya. She had evidently been running: she 
was out of breath, and the faint scent of the 
winter wind, or perhaps of fresh steppe hay, 
came from her fresh cold mouth. 

"I waited and waited, I thought you weren't 

"I had to get rid of Stepan." 

"You've made me frozen, you wretch!" 


"I'm hot, I'll warm you." She flung open her 
wool-lined coat and wrapped herself round 
Grigory like hops round an oak, 

"Why did you send for me?" 

"Take your arms away, somebody may pass." 

"You haven't quarrelled with your people, 
have you?" 

"I've left them. I spent the night with Misha. 
I'm a homeless dog now." 

"What will you do now?" Aksinya relaxed 
the grip of her arms and drew her coat tight 
with a shiver. "Let's go over to the fence, 
Grisha, We can't stand here in the middle of 
the road." 

They turned off the road, and Grigory, 
sweeping away the drift-snow, leaned against 
the frosty crackling wattle fence. 

"You don't know whether Natalya has gone 
home, do you?" 

"I don't. . . . She'll go, I expect. How can she 
stay here?" 

Grigory slipped Aksinya's frozen hand up 
the sleeve of his coat, and squeezing her 
slender wrist, he said: 

"And what about us?" 

"I don't know, dear. Whatever you think 

"Will you leave Stepan?" 

"Without a sigh. This evening, if you like." 

18—1933 273 

"And we'll find work somewhere, and live 

"They can put me in the shafts as long as 
I'm with you, Grisha. Anything to be with 

They stood close together, each warming the 
other. Grigory did not want to stir; he stood 
facing into the wind, his nostrils quivering, his 
eyelids closed. Aksinya, her face pressed into 
his armpit, breathed in the familiar, intoxicat- 
ing scent of his sweat; and on her shamelessly 
avid lips, hidden from Grigory's eyes, trembled 
a joyous smile of happiness fulfilled. 

"Tomorrow I'll go and see Mokhov. He may 
be able to give me work," Grigory said, shift- 
ing his grip on Aksinya's wrist, which had 
grown damp with perspiration under his 
fingers. Aksinya did not speak, nor did she 
raise her head. The smile slipped like a dying 
wind from her face, and the anxiety and fear 
lurking in her dilated eyes gave them the look 
of a frightened animal. "Shall I tell him or 
not?" she thought, as she remembered that she 
was pregnant. "I must tell him," she decided, 
but immediately, trembling with fear, she drove 
away the terrible thought. With a woman's in- 
stinct she sensed that this was not the moment 
to tell him; she realized that she might lose 
Grigory for ever; and uncertain whether the 


child leaping beneath her heart was Grigory's 
or Stepan's, she deceived her conscience, and 
did not tell him. 

"Why are you trembling? Are you cold?" 
Grigory asked, wrapping his coat about her. 

"I am a little. ... I must go, Grisha. Stepan 
will come back and find me away." 

"Where's he gone?" 

"To Anikei's to play cards." 

They parted. The agitating scent of her lips 
remained on Grigory's lips; the scent of the 
winter wind, or perhaps that faint, faraway 
scent that comes from the hay after a spring 
shower in the steppe. 

Aksinya turned into a by-way; bending low, 
she almost ran. By a well, where the cattle had 
churned up the autumn mud, she stumbled awk- 
wardly, her foot slipping on a frozen clod; and 
feeling a lacerating pain in her belly she caught 
at the fence. The pain died away, but in her 
side something living, moving, beat angrily and 
strongly time and again. 


Next morning Grigory went to see Mokhov. 
Mokhov had just returned from the shop and 
was sitting with Atyopin in the dining-room 
with its rich oak-coloured wall-paper, sipping 

18* 275 

strong, claret-coloured tea. Grigory left his cap 
in the hall and went in, 

"I'd like to have a word with you, Sergei Pla- 

"Ah, Pantelei Melekhov's son, isn't it? What 
do you want?" 

"I've come to ask whether you could give me 
a job." 

As Grigory spoke the door creaked, and a 
young officer in a khaki tunic with a lieutenant's 
epaulettes entered. Grigory recognized him as 
the young Listnitsky whom Mitka Korshunov 
had outraced the previous summer. Mokhov 
moved a chair up for the officer, and turned 
back to Grigory. 

"Has your father come down in the world, 
that he is putting his son out to work?" he in- 

"I'm not living with him any more," 

"Left him?" 


"Well, I'd gladly take you on. I know your 
family to be a hard-working lot, but I'm afraid 
I haven't any work for you to do." 

"What's the matter?" Listnitsky inquired, 
pulling his chair up to the table. 

"This lad is looking for work." 

"Can you look after horses? Can you drive 
a team?" the officer asked as he stirred his tea. 


"I can. I've had the care of our own six 

"I want a coachman. What are your terms?" 

"I'm not asking for much." 

"In that case come to my father at our estate 
tomorrow. You know the house? At Yagodnoye, 
about twelve versts from here." i 

"Yes, I know it." 

"Then come tomorrow morning and we shall 
settle the matter." 

Grigory went to the door. As he turned the 
handle he hesitated, and said: "I'd like to have 
a word with you in private. Your Honour." 

Listnitsky followed Grigory out into the semi- 
darkness of the passage. A rosy light filtered 
dimly through the Venetian glass of the door 
leading to the balcony. 

"Well, what is it?" 

"I'm not alone. . . ." Grigory flushed darkly. 
"I've got a woman with me. . . . Perhaps you 
can find something for her to do?" 

"Your wife?" Listnitsky inquired, smiling and 
raising his eyebrows. 

"Someone else's." 

"Oh, I see. All right, we'll fix her up as cook 
for the servants. But where is her husband?" 

"Here in the village." 

"So you've stolen another man's wife?" 

"She wanted to come." 


"A romantic affair! Well, come along tomor- 
row. You may go now." 

Grigory arrived at Yagodnoye at about eight 
the next morning. The house was surrounded 
by a peeling brick and plaster wall. Outbuild- 
ings straggled over the big yard: a wing with 
a tiled roof, the date 1910 picked out with tiles 
of a different colour; the servants' quarters, a 
bath-house, stables, poultry-house and cattle- 
shed, a long barn and coach-house. 

The house was large and old, and nestled in 
an orchard. Beyond it rose a grey wall of bare 
poplars and the meadow willows, empty rooks' 
nests swinging in their brown tops. 

As he entered the yard Grigory was welcomed 
by a pack of Crimean borzois. An old bitch, 
rheumy-eyed and lame, was the first to sniff at 
him and follow him with drooping head. In the 
servants' quarters a cook was quarrelling with 
a young, freckled maid. A thick-lipped old gaf- 
fer was sitting in a cloud of tobacco smoke on 
the door-step. The maid conducted Grigory to 
the house. The hall reeked of dogs and uncured 
pelts. On a table lay the case of a double-bar- 
relled gun and a game-bag with a frayed green 
silk fringe. 

"The young master will see you," the maid 
called to Grigory through a side door. 

Grigory glanced apprehensively at his muddy 


boots, and entered. Listnitsky was lying on a 
bed next to the window. On the eider-down was 
a box containing tobacco and smoking utensils. 
The officer made himself a cigarette, buttoned 
up the collar of his white shirt, and remarked: 

"You're in good time. Wait, my father will 
be here in a minute." 

Grigory stood by the door. Presently he heard 
the sound of footsteps in the ante-room, and a 
deep bass voice asked through the door: "Are 
you asleep, Yevgeny?" 

"Come in." 

An old man wearing black Caucasian felt 
boots entered. Grigory gave him a sideways 
glance. He was immediately struck by the thin 
crooked nose and the white arch of his mous- 
tache, stained yellow by tobacco under the nose. 
Old Listnitsky was tall and broad-shouldered, 
but gaunt. He wore a long camel-hair tunac 
that hung loosely, the collar encircling his 
brown wrinkled neck like a noose. His faded 
eyes were set close to the bridge of his nose. 

"Papa, here's the coachman I spoke to you 
about. The lad's from a decent family." 

"Whose son is he?" the old man asked in a 
booming voice. 


"Which Melekhov's?" 

"Pantelei Melekhov's." 


"I knew Prokofy, I remember Pantelei too. 
Lame, isn't he?" 

"Yes, Your Excellency," Grigory replied, com- 
ing stiffly to attention. He recalled his father's 
stories of the retired General Listnitsky, a hero 
of the Russo-Turkish war. 

"Why are you seeking work?" the old man 

"I'm not living with my father. Your Excel- 

"What sort of Cossack will you make if you 
hire yourself out? Didn't your father provide 
for you when you left him?" 

"No, Your Excellency." 

"Hm, that's another matter. You want work 
for your wife as well?" 

The younger Listnitsky's bed creaked heavily. 
Grigory, glancing in his direction, saw the of- 
ficer winking and nodding his head. 

"That's right. Your Excellency." 

"None of your 'excellencies.' I don't like them. 
Your wage will be eight rubles a month. For 
both of you. Your wife will cook for the serv- 
ants and seasonal workers. Is that satisfac- 


"Move in tomorrow morning. You'll occupy 
the previous coachman's quarters." 

"How did the hunting go yesterday?" List- 


nitsky asked his father, lowering his narrow 
feet on to the carpet. 

"We started a fox out of the gully at Gremya- 
chy and chased it as far as the woods, but it 
was an old one and fooled the dogs." 

"Is Kazbek still limping?" 

"He must have sprained his foot. Hurry up, 
Yevgeny, breakfast is getting cold." 

The old man turned to Grigory and snapped 
his bony fingers. 

"Quick march! Be here at eight." 

Grigory went out. On the far side of the bam 
the borzois were sunning themselves on a patch 
of ground bare of snow. The old bitch with the 
rheumy eyes trotted up to Grigory, sniffed at 
him from behind and followed him a little way 
with head still drooping mournfully, then 
turned back. 


Aksinya had finished her cooking early. She 
banked up the fire, washed the dishes, and 
glanced out of the window looking on to the 
yard. Stepan was standing by the wood-pile 
close to the fence bordering on the Melekhovs' 
yard. A half-smoked cigarette hung from the 
corner of his firm lips. The left-hand corner of 
the shed was tumbling down, and he was select- 
ing posts suitable for its repair. 


Aksinya had arisen with two rosy blushes 
in her cheeks and a youthful glitter in her eyes. 
Stepan noticed the change, and as he was hav- 
ing breakfast he could not forbear to ask: 
"What's happened to you?" 

"What's happened?" Aksinya echoed him, 

"Your face is shining as though you had 
smeared yourself with oil." 

"It's the heat of the fire." And turning away 
she glanced stealthily out of the window to see 
whether Misha Koshevoi's sister was coming. 

But the girl did not arrive until late in the 
afternoon. Tormented with waiting, Aksinya 
started up: 

"Do you want me, Mashutka?" 

"Come out for a moment." 

Stepan was standing before a scrap of mirror 
fixed into the whitewashed stove, combing his 
forelock and chestnut moustache with a stumpy 
ox-horn comb. Aksinya looked at him nervously. 

"You aren't going out, are you?" 

He did not answer immediately, but put the 
comb into his trouser pocket, and picked up a 
pack of cards and his tobacco pouch which were 
lying on the stove ledge. Then he said: "I'm 
going along to Anikushka's for a while." 

"And when are you ever at home? You spend 
every night at cards. And all night, too." 


"All right, I've heard that before." 

"Are you going to play pontoon again?" 

"Oh, drop it, Aksinya. Look, there's someone 
coming to see you." 

Aksinya sidled out into the passage. The 
freckled, rosy-faced Mashutka welcomed her 
with a smile. 

"Grisha's back." 


"He told me to tell you to come along to our 
house as soon as it's dark." 

Seizing the girl's hand, Aksinya drew her to- 
wards the outer door. 

"Softer, softer, dear! Did he tell you to say 
anything else?" 

"He said you're to get your things together 
and take them along." 

Burning and trembling, unable to keep her 
feet still, Aksinya turned and glanced at the 
kitchen door. 

"Lord, how am I to. ... So quickly? Well . . . 
wait. Tell him I'll be along as soon as I can. 
But where will he meet me?" 

"You're to come to our house." 

"Oh, no!" 

"All right, I'll tell him to come out and wait 
for you." 

Stepan was drawing on his coat as Aksinya 
went in. 


"What did she want?" he asked between two 
puffs at a cigarette. 


"The Koshevois' girl." 

"Oh, she came to ask me to cut out a skirt 
for her," 

Blowing the ash off his cigarette, Stepan went 
to the door. 

"Don't wait up for me," he said as he went 

Aksinya ran to the frosted window and 
dropped to her knees before the bench. Stepan's 
footsteps sounded along the path trodden out in 
the snow to the gate. The wind caught a spark 
from his cigarette and carried it back to the 
window. Through the melted circle of glass Ak- 
sinya caught a glimpse of his fur cap and the 
outline of his swarthy cheek. 

Feverishly she turned jackets, skirts and ker- 
chiefs-her dowry-out of the great chest and 
threw them into a large shawl. Panting and 
wild-eyed, she passed through the kitchen for 
the last time, and putting out the light, ran on 
to the steps. Someone emerged from the Mele- 
khovs' house to see to the cattle. She waited un- 
til the footsteps had died away, fastened the 
door by the chain, then ran down to the Don. 
Strands of hair escaped from her kerchief and 
tickled her cheeks, and as she made her way by 


side lanes to the Koshevois' hut, clutching her 
bundle, her strength ebbed and her feet dragged 
leadenly, Grigory was waiting for her at 
the gate. He took the bundle and silently led the 
way into the steppe. 

Beyond the threshing-floor Aksinya slowed 
her pace and caught at Grigory's sleeve. "Wait 
a moment," she said. 

"What for? The moon will be late tonight, we 
must hurry." 

"Wait, Grisha!" She halted, doubled up with 

"What's the matter?" Grigory turned back to 

"Something . . , inside me. I must have lifted 
something heavy." She licked her dry lips, 
screwing up her eyes in pain till she saw pin- 
points of fire, and clutched at her belly. She 
stood a moment, bowed and miserable, and 
then, poking her hair under her kerchief, set off 

"I'm all right now, come along." 

"You haven't even asked where I'm taking 
you to. I might be leading you to the nearest 
cliff to push you over," Grigory said smiling 
in the darkness. 

"It's all the same to me now. I can't go back." 
Her voice trembled with an unhappy laugh. 

That night Stepan returned at midnight as 


usual. He went first to the stable, threw the 
scattered hay back into the manger, removed 
the horse's halter, then went to the house. "She 
must have gone out for the evening," he 
thought, as he unfastened the chain. He entered 
the kitchen, closed the door fast, and struck a 
match. He had been in a winning vein that 
evening, and so was quiet and drowsy. He lit 
the lamp, and gaped at the disorder of the kitch- 
en, not guessing the reason, A little aston- 
ished, he went into the best room. The open 
chest yawned blackly. On the floor lay an old 
jacket which Aksinya had forgotten in her hur- 
ry. Stepan tore off his sheepskin and ran back 
to the kitchen for the light. He stared around 
the best room, and at last he understood. He 
dropped the lamp, and, scarcely aware of what 
he was doing, tore his sabre from the wall, 
gripped the hilt until the veins swelled in his 
fingers, raised Aksinya's blue and yellow jacket 
on its point, threw the jacket up in the air and 
with a short swing of the sabre slashed it in 
two as it fell. 

Grey, savage in his wolfish grief, he threw the 
pieces of the old jacket up to the ceiling again 
and again; the sharp steel whistled as it cut 
them in their flight. 

Then, tearing off the sword-knot, he threw 
the sabre into a corner, went into the kitchen, 


and sat down at the table. His head bowed, 
with trembling iron fingers he sat stroking the 
unwashed table-top. 


Troubles never come singly. The morning 
after Grigory left home, through Het-Baba's 
carelessness Miron Korshunov's pedigree bull 
gored the throat of his finest mare. Het-Baba 
came running into the house, white, distracted 
and trembling: 

"Trouble, master! The bull, curse him, the 
damned bull. . . ." 

"Well, what about the bull?" Miron asked in 

"He's done the mare in. Gored her. . . ." 

Miron ran half-dressed into the yard. By 
the well Mitka was beating the red five-year- 
old bull with a stake. The bull, his head down 
and dewlap dragging over the ground, was 
churning up the snow with his hoofs and scat- 
tering a silvery powder around his tail. Instead 
of yielding before the drubbing, he bellowed 
huskily and stamped his hind-feet as though 
about to charge. Mitka beat him on his nose 
and sides, cursing the while and paying no 
heed to Mikhei, who was trying to drag him 
back by his belt, 


"Keep back, Mitka ... for Lord's sake. 
He'll gore you! Master, why don't you tell 

Miron ran to the well. The mare was stand- 
ing by the fence, her head drooping sadly. Her 
dark heaving flanks were wet with sweat, and 
blood was running down her chest. Her light- 
bay back and sides were quivering, causing 
great shivers in her groin, 

Miron ran to look at her front. A rose-col- 
oured wound, big enough to take a man's hand, 
and revealing the windpipe, gaped in her neck. 
Miron seized her by the forelock and raised her 
head. The mare fixed her glittering violet eyes 
on her master as though mutely asking: "What 
next?" And as if in answer to the question Mi- 
ron shouted: "Run and tell someone to scald 
some oak bark. Hurry!" 

Het-Baba, his Adam's apple trembling in his 
dirty neck, ran to strip some bark from a tree, 
and Mitka came across to his father, one eye 
fixed on the bull circling and bellowing about 
the yard. 

"Hold the mare by her forelock," his father 
ordered. "Someone run for some twine. Quick! 
Or do you want a box on the ears?" 

They tied the string tightly round the mare's 
velvety, slightly hairy upper lip so that she 
should not feel the pain. 


Old Grishaka came hobbling up. An infu- 
sion, the colour of acorns, was brought out in 
a painted bowl. 

"Cool it down," he croaked. "It's too hot, 
isn't it? Miron, do you hear me?" 

"Go inside. Dad. You'll catch cold out here." 

"I tell you to cool it down. Do you want to 
kill the mare?" 

The wound was bathed. With freezing fin- 
gers Miron threaded raw twine through a darn- 
ing needle and sewed up the edges, making a 
neat seam. He had hardly turned away to go 
back to the house when his wife came running 
from the kitchen, alarm written large on her 
flabby cheeks. She called her husband aside: 

"Natalya's here, Miron. . .! Oh, my God!" 

"Now what's the matter?" Miron demanded, 
his face paling. 

"It's Grigory. He's left home!" Lukinichna 
flung out her arms like a rook preparing for 
flight, clapped her hands against her skirt, and 
broke into a wail: 

"Disgraced before the whole village! Lord, 
what a blow! Oh. . ,!" 

Miron found Natalya in a shawl and short 
winter coat standing in the middle of the 
kitchen. Two tears welled in her eyes, and her 
cheeks were deeply flushed. 

19-1933 289 

"What are you doing here?" her father blus- 
tered as he ran into the room. "Has your hus- 
band beaten you? Can't you get on together?" 
"He's gone away!" Natalya groaned, swal- 
lowing dry tears, and she swayed and fell on 
her knees before her father. "Father, my life 
is ruined. . . . Take me back. . , . Grigory's gone 
away with that woman. He's left me. Father, 
I've been crushed into the dust!" she sobbed 
out the half-finished phrases, gazing imploring- 
ly up at her father's ruddy beard. 
"Wait, wait now, . . ." 

"There's nothing for me to live for there! 
Take me back!" She crawled on her knees to 
the chest and dropped her head on to her arms. 
Her kerchief slipped off her head and her smooth 
straight black hair fell over her pale ears. Tears 
at such a time are like rain in a May drought. 
Her mother pressed Natalya's head against her 
sunken belly, whispering motherly foolish 
words of comfort; but Miron, infuriated, ran 
out to the steps, 

"Harness up two sleighs!" he shouted. 
On the steps a cock, perched busily on the 
back of a hen, took fright at the shout, jumped 
clear, and stalked off towards the bam, squawk- 
ing indignantly. 

"Harness up two sleighs!" Miron kicked 
again and again at the fretted balustrade of the 


steps until it was hopelessly ruined. He re- 
turned to the house only when Het-Baba hurried 
out from the stables with a pair of horses, 
harnessing them as he ran. 

Mitka and Het-Baba drove to the Melekhovs' 
for Natalya's possessions. In his abstraction 
Het-Baba sent a young pig in the road flying. 
"Mebbe the master will forget all about the 
mare now," he was thinking, and rejoiced, let- 
ting the reins hang loose. "But he's such an 
old devil, he'll never forget," and sneering to 
himself, Het-Baba tried to get the whip lash 
under the tenderest part of the horse's belly. 


Yevgeny Listnitsky held a commission as 
lieutenant in the Ataman's Lifeguards Regiment. 
Having had a tumble during the officers' hurdle 
races and broken his left arm, he took furlough 
when he came out of hospital and went to stay 
with his father for six weeks. 

The old general lived alone at Yagodnoye. 
He had lost his wife while driving in the sub- 
urbs of Warsaw in the 1880's. Shots fired at 
the Cossack general had missed him, but rid- 
dled the carriage, killing his wife and coach- 
man. Listnitsky was left with his two-year-old 
son Yevgeny. Soon after this event the gen- 

19* 291 

eral retired, abandoned an estate of ten thou- 
sand acres in the Saratov Province which had 
been granted to his great-grandfather in recog- 
nition of his services during the war of 1812, 
and moved to Yagodnoye, where he lived an 
austere and rigorous life. i 

He sent his son Yevgeny to the cadets' corps 
as soon as the lad was old enough, and oc- 
cupied himself with farming. He purchased 
blood stock from the imperial stables, crossed 
them with the finest mares from England and 
from the famous Provalsky stables, and reared 
a new breed. He raised cattle and livestock 
on his own, and bought land, sowed grain 
(with hired labour), hunted with his borzois in 
the autumn and winter, and occasionally locked 
himself in the dining hall and drank for 
weeks on end. He was troubled with a stomach 
complaint, and his doctor had strictly forbid- 
den him to swallow anything solid; he had 
to extract the goodness from all his food by 
mastication, spitting out the residue on to 
a silver tray held by his personal servant 

Venyamin was a half-witted, swarthy young 
peasant, with a shock of thick black hair. He 
had been in Listnitsky's service for six years. 
When he first had to wait on the general it 
made him feel sick to watch the old man 


spitting out the chewed food. But he got 
used to it. 

The other inhabitants of the estate were the 
cook Lukerya, the ancient stableman Sashka, 
and the shepherd Tikhon. From the very first 
the flabby pock-marked Lukerya, who with her 
huge bottom looked like a yellow lump of un- 
risen dough, would not allow Aksinya near the 

"You can cook when the master takes on ex- 
tra workers in the summer. Now I can manage 
by myself," 

Aksinya was set to work washing the floors 
of the house three times a week, feeding the 
innumerable fowls, and keeping the fowl-house 
clean. She worked with a will, trying to please 
everyone, even the cook. Grigory spent much 
of his time in the spacious log-built stables 
with Sashka the stableman. The old man was 
one mass of grey hair, but everybody still fa- 
miliarly called him "Sashka." Probably even 
old Listnitsky, for whom he had worked more 
than twenty years, had forgotten his surname. 
In his youth Sashka had been the coachman, 
but as he grew old and feeble and his sight 
began to fail he was made stableman. Stocky, 
covered with greenish-grey hair (even the hair 
on his hands was grey), with a nose that had 
been flattened by a club in his youth, he wore 


an everlasting childish smile and gazed out on 
the world with blinking artless eyes. The 
apostolic expression of his face was marred by 
his broken nose and his hanging scarred un- 

In his army days Sashka had once got drunk 
and taken by mistake a swill of aqua regia 
instead of vodka. The fiery liquid had welded 
his lower lip to his chin, leaving a crooked 
glowing pink scar. Sashka was fond of vodka, 
and when he was in his cups he would strut 
about the yard as though he were master. 
Stamping his feet, he would stand under old 
Listnitsky's bedroom and call loudly and 
sternly: ' 

"Mikolai 'Lexeyevich! Mikolai Xexeyevich!" 

If old Listnitsky happened to be in his bed- 
room he would come to the window. 

"You're drunk, you good-for-nothing!" he 
would thunder. 

Sashka would hitch up his trousers, and 
wink and smile. His smile danced diagonally 
right across his face, from his puckered left 
eye to the pink scar trailing from the right 
corner of his mouth; it was a crooked smile 
but a pleasant one. 

"Mikolai 'Lexeyevich, Your Excellency, I 
know you!" he would wag his lean, dirty finger 


"Go and sleep it off!" his master would 
smile pacifyingly, twisting his drooping mous- 
tache with all five nicotine-stained fingers. 

"You can't take me in!" the stableman 
would laugh, going up to the railings of the 
fence. "Mikolai 'Lexeyevich, you're like me. 
You and me-we know each other like a fish 
knows water. You and me, we're rich. Ah!" 
Here he would fling his arms wide open to 
show how rich. "We're known by everybody, 
all over the Don District, We, , . ." Sashka's 
voice would suddenly grow mournful and in- 
gratiating: "Me and you-Your Excellency, 
everything's all right, only we've both got rot- 
ting noses," 

"Why is that?" his master would ask, turn- 
ing purple with laughter and twitching his 

"Through vodka!" Sashka would bark out 
the words, blinking rapidly and licking his 
lips. "Don't drink, Mikolai 'Lexeyevich, or 
we'll go broke-you and me. We'll drink every- 
thing away!" 

"Go and drink this away!" old Listnitsky 
would throw out a twenty-kopeck piece, and 
Sashka would catch it and hide it in his cap, 
crying: i 

"Well, good-bye. General," 

"Have you watered the horses yet?" his 


master would ask with a smile, knowing what 
was coming. 

"Oh, you lousy devil! You son of a swine!" 
Sashka would turn livid, and his voice would 
crack with anger. "Sashka forget to water the 
horses? Eh? Even if I was dead I'd still crawl 
for a pail to water the horses. And he 
thinks. . , ." 

The old man would march off fuming at the 
undeserved reproach, cursing and shaking his 
fist. Everything he did was forgiven, even 
drinking and his familiarity with his master. 
He was indispensable as a stableman. Winter 
and summer he slept in the stables, in an empty 
stall. He was stableman and horse-doctor; he 
gathered herbs for the horses in the spring, 
and dug up medicinal roots in the steppe and 
in the valleys. Bunches of dried herbs hung 
high up on the stable walls: milfoil to cure 
heaves, snake-eye grass as an antidote for ad- 
der-bite, blackleaf for the feet, a small white 
herb that grows at the root of the willow to 
treat sores, and many other little-known rem- 
edies for all the various ailments and dis- 
eases of horses. 

Winter and summer, a subtle throat-tickling 
aroma hung like a fine-spun web about the 
stall in which Sashka slept. Hay packed as 


hard as a board, covered with a horse-cloth, 
and his coat, smelling of horse sweat, served 
as mattress and bedding to his plank-bed. The 
coat and a sheepskin were all the old man's 
worldly goods. 

Tikhon, a huge, dull-witted Cossack, lived 
with Lukerya, and secretly nursed a quite need- 
less jealousy of her and Sashka, Once every 
month he would take the old man by the but- 
ton of his greasy shirt and lead him round to 
the back of the house. 

"Old man, don't you set your cap at my 

"That depends . . ." Sashka would wink sig- 

"Keep off her!" Tikhon begged. 

"I like 'em pock-marked, lad. I don't need 
vodka if you can give me a pock-marked 
wench. The more pock-marked they are the 
fonder they are of us menfolk, the hussies." 

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself at 
your age, . . . And you a doctor, too; you look 
after the horses, you know all the secrets." 

"I can do all kinds of doctoring," Sashka 

"Keep off her, grandad. It's wrong," 

"I'll get that Lukerya one of these days, lad, 
I'll have her, my lad. You can say good-bye 
to Lukerya, I'll be taking her away from you. 


She's like a currant pie, only with the currants 
picked out. That's the kind for me!" 

"Don't let me catch you or I'll kill you!" 
Tikhon would say, sighing and drawing some 
copper coins out of his pocket. 

And so it went on month after month. 

Life mouldered away in a sleepy torpor at 
Yagodnoye, The estate lay in a valley remote 
from all frequented roads, and from the autumn 
onward all communication with the neigh- 
bouring villages was broken. In the winter 
nights the wolf packs emerged from their for- 
est lairs and terrified the horses with their 
howling. Tikhon used to go to the meadow to 
frighten them off with his master's double- 
barrelled gun, and Lukerya, wrapping her 
ample bottom in her rough blanket, would 
wait in suspense for the sound of the shots, her 
little eyes disappearing into her greasy pock- 
marked cheeks. At such times her imagination 
transformed the ugly bald-headed Tikhon into 
a handsome and reckless youth, and when the 
door of the servants' quarters slammed and 
Tikhon entered in a cloud of steam, she made 
room for him on the bed and, cooing affec- 
tionately, warmly embraced her frozen mate. 

In summer-time Yagodnoye hummed till late 
at night with the voices of labourers. The mas- 
ter sowed some forty dessiatines with various 


crops, and hired labourers to harvest them. 
Occasionally Yevgeny came home, and would 
stroll through the orchard and over the mead- 
ow, and feel bored. The mornings he spent 
fishing in the pond. Plump^chested and of me- 
dium height, he wore a forelock Cossack fash- 
ion on the right side of his head. His officer's 
tunic fitted him snugly. 

During the first days of Grigory's life on the 
estate he was frequently in the young master's 
company. One day Venyamin came smiling 
into the servants' quarters and, bowing his 
fuzzy head, announced: 

"The young master wants you, Grigory." 

Grigory, as on many other occasions, went 
to Yevgeny's room and stood at the door. The 
master pointed to a chair. Grigory seated him- 
self on the very edge. 

"How do you like our horses?" 

"They're good horses. The grey is fine." 

"Give him plenty of exercise, but don't gal- 
lop him." 

"So Grandad Sashka told me." 

"What about Sturdy?" 

"The bay? He's a fine horse. Shoe's loose 
though, I'll have to get him reshod." 

Screwing up his piercing grey eyes, the 
young master said: "You have to go to the 
training camp in May, don't you?" 



"I'll speak to the ataman about it. You won't 
have to go." 

"Thank you, sir." 

There was a momentary silence. Unbutton- 
ing the collar of his uniform, Yevgeny scratched 
his womanishly white chest. 

"Aren't you afraid of Aksinya's husband 
taking her from you?" 

"He's thrown her over; he won't take her 

"How do you know?" 

"I saw one of the men from the village the 
other day when I went there for nails. He told 
me Stepan was drinking hard. Says he doesn't 
want Aksinya any more, thinks he'll find some- 
one hotter." 

"Aksinya's a fine-looking woman," Listni- 
tsky remarked thoughtfully, staring over Gri- 
gory's head with something licentious in his 

"Not bad," Grigory agreed, and his face 

Yevgeny's furlough was nearly over. He no 
longer wore a sling and could bend his arm 

During the last few days of his stay Yev- 
geny spent a great deal of his time in Gri- 
gory's room. Aksinya had whitewashed the 


dirt-caked walls, scrubbed the window-frames, 
and scoured the floor with broken brick. There 
was a feminine warmth and cosiness in the 
cheerful empty little room. The officer, his 
short, fashionably-out coat thrown over his 
shoulders, chose times for his visits when Gri- 
gory was occupied with the horses. He would 
first go into the kitchen, stand joking with 
Lukerya for a minute or two, then pass into 
the farther room. He would sit down on a 
stool, hunching his shoulders, and fix a shame- 
lessly smiling gaze on Aksinya. She was 
embarrassed by his presence, and the knitting- 
needles trembled in her fingers. 

"Well, Aksinya, how are you getting on?" 
he would ask, puffing at his cigarette until the 
room was filled with blue smoke. 

"Very well, thank you." Aksinya would 
raise her eyes, and meeting the lieutenant's 
transparent gaze, silently telling of his desire, 
she turned crimson. That naked stare of his 
was unpleasant and annoying. She replied dis- 
connectedly to his questions, avoiding his eyes 
and seeking an opportunity to leave the room. 

"I must go and feed the ducks now," 

"There's no hurry. The ducks can wait," he 
smiled, and his legs trembled in his tight rid- 
ing breeches, and he continued to ply her with 
questions concerning her past life, using the 


deep tones of his voice, which was like his fa- 
ther's and pleading lewdly with his crystal- 
clear eyes. 

When Grigory came in, the fire would die 
out of Yevgeny's eyes and he would offer him 
a cigarette, leaving soon after. 

"What did he want?" Grigory would ask 
Aksinya, not looking at her. 

"How should I know?" Remembering the 
officer's look, Aksinya would laugh forcedly. 
"He came in and just sat there like this, Gri- 
sha," (she showed him how Yevgeny had sat 
with hunched back) "and sat and sat until I 
was sick of him." 

"Did you ask him in?" Grigory's eyes would 
narrow angrily, 

"What do I need him for?" 

"You watch out, or I'll kick him down the 
steps one day." 

Aksinya would gaze at Grigory with a smile 
on her lips, and not be sure whether he was 
speaking in jest or earnest. 


The winter broke up during the fourth week 
of Lent. Open water began to fringe the edges 
of the Don; the ice, melting from the top, turned 
grey and swelled spongily. In the evening 


a low murmur came from the hills, indicating 
frost according to the time-honoured saying, 
but in reality the thaw was already on its way. 
In the morning the air tingled with the light 
frost, but by noon the earth was bare in 
patches, and in the nostrils was the scent of 
March, of the frozen bark, of cherry-trees, and 
rotting straw. 

Miron Korshunov took his time preparing 
for the ploughing season, spending the length- 
ening days in the shed sharpening the teeth 
of the harrows and repairing cartwheels. Old 
Grishaka usually fasted in the fourth week of 
Lent, He would come home from church, blue 
with cold, and complain to his daughter-in- 
law Lukinichna: 

"That priest makes me sick. He's no good. 
He's as slow with the service as a carter with 
a load of eggs." 

"You'd have been wiser to have fasted dur- 
ing Passion Week, it's warmer by then." 

"Call Natalya," he replied. "I'll get her to 
make me a pair of warmer stockings." 

Natalya still lived in the belief that Grigory 
would return to her; her heart longed and 
waited for him, and would not listen to the 
warning whisper of sober reason. She spent 
the nights in weary yearning, tossing on her 
bed, crushed by her undeserved and unexpect- 


ed shame. Another woe was now added to the 
first, and she awaited its sequel in cold terror, 
fluttering about in her maiden room like a 
wounded lapwing in a forest glade. From the 
earliest days of her return home her brother 
Mitka had begun to give her odd glances, and 
one day, catching her in the porch, he asked 
frankly : 

"Still hankering after Grisha?" 

"What's it got to do with you?" 

"I want to cheer you up." 

Natalya glanced into his eyes and was terri- 
fied by what she saw there. Mitka's green cat's 
eyes glittered and their slits gleamed greasily 
in the dim light of the porch. Natalya slammed 
the door and ran to her grandfather's 
room, where she stood listening to the wild 
beating of her heart. The next day Mitka came 
up to her in the yard. He had been tui^ning 
over fresh hay for the cattle, and green stalks 
of grass hung from his straight hair and his 
fur cap, Natalya was chasing the dogs away 
from the pigs' trough. 

"Don't fret yourself, Natalya. . . ." 

"I'll tell Father," she cried, raising her 
hands to protect herself. 

"You're an idiot!" 

"Keep away, you beast!" 

"What are you shouting for?" 


"Go away, Mitka! I'll go at once and tell 
Father. How dare you look at me like that? 
Have you no shame! It's a wonder the earth 
doesn't open and swallow you up." 

"Well, it doesn't, does it?" Mitka stamped 
with his boots to confirm the statement and 
edged up to her. 

"Don't come near me, Mitka!" 

"I won't now, but I'll come at night. By 
God, I'll come!" 

Trembling, Natalya left the yard. That 
evening she made her bed on the chest, and 
took her younger sister to sleep with her. All 
night she tossed and turned, her burning eyes 
seeking to pierce the darkness, her ears alert 
for the slightest sound, ready to scream the 
house down. But the silence was broken only 
by the snores of Grishaka sleeping in the next 
room, and an occasional grunt from her sister. 

The thread of days unwound in that con- 
stant inconsolable grief that only women know. 

Mitka had not got over the shame of his re- 
cent attempt at marriage, and he went about 
morose and ill-tempered. He went out every 
evening and rarely arrived home again before 
dawn. He carried on with women who liked 
to amuse themselves while their husbands 
were soldiering and went to Stepan Astakhov's 
to play cards for stakes. His father watched 

20—1933 305 

his behaviour, but said nothing for the time 

Just before Easter, Natalya met Pantelei 
Prokofyevich outside Mokhov's shop. He 
called to her: 

"Wait a moment!" 

She halted. Her heart felt a pang of yearn- 
ing as she saw her father-in-law's face, re- 
motely reminding her of Grigory. 

"Why don't you come and see us old folks, 
sometimes?" the old man asked her, giving her 
a quick look, as though he himself had been 
guilty of some offence against her. "The wife 
misses you. . . . Well, how are you getting on?" 

Natalya recovered from her embarrassment. 
"Thank you . . ." she said, and after a moment's 
hesitation (she wanted to say "Father!"), she 
added: "Pantelei Prokofyevich, I've been very 
busy at home." 

"Our Grisha . , . ah!" the old man shook his 
head bitterly. "He's let us down, the scoundrel. 
And we were getting on so well together." 

"Oh well. Father," Natalya answered shrilly 
with a catch in her voice. "I suppose it wasn't 
to be." 

Pantelei fidgeted in embarrassment as he 
saw Natalya's eyes fill. Her lips twisted in an 
effort to hold back her tears, 

"Good-bye, my dear," he said, "Don't grieve 


over him, the son of a bitch! He's not worth 
the nail on your little finger. Maybe he'll come 
back. I'd like to see him. I'd like to get at 

Natalya walked away with her head sunk on 
her breast. Pantelei stood shifting from foot to 
foot as though about to break into a run. As 
she turned the comer Natalya glanced back; 
the old man was limping across the square, 
leaning heavily on his stick. 


As spring approached, the meetings in Stock- 
man's workshop were held less frequently. 
The villagers were preparing for the field 
work, and only Ivan Alexeyevich the engine- 
man and Knave came from the mill, bringing 
David with them. On Maundy Thursday they 
gathered at the workshop in the early evening. 
Stockman was sitting on his bench, filing a 
silver ring made from a fifty-kopeck piece. A 
sheaf of rays from the setting sun streamed 
through the window, forming a square of dusty 
yellowish-pink light on the floor. The engine- 
man picked up a pair of pincers and turned 
them over in his hand. 

"I had to go to the master the other day to 
ask about a piston." he remarked, "It will have 

20* S07 

to be taken to Millerovo, we can't mend it 
here. There's a crack in it this long." Ivan 
Alexeyevich measured the length of his little 

"There's a works at Millerovo, isn't there?" 
Stockman said, scattering a fine silver dust as 
he filed the coin. 

"A steel foundry. I had to spend a few days 
there last year." 

"Many workers?" 

"I should say four hundred or thereabouts." 

"And what are they like?" Stockman's tone 
was deliberate. 

"They're well off. They're none of your 
pioletariat, they're muck." 

"Why is that?" asked Knave, who was sit- 
ting next to Stockman, his stubby fingers 
clasped under his knees. 

David, the mill-hand, his hair grey with flour 
dust, padded about the workshop, listening 
with a smile to the dry rustle of the shavings 
that he stirred up with his boots. He felt as if 
he were walking along a ravine deep in fallen 
scarlet leaves with the leaves giving easily and 
the damp turf springing youthfully underfoot. 

"Because they're too well off. Each has his 
own little house, his wife, and every comfort. 
And a good half of them are Baptists into the 
bargain. The master himself is their preacher, 


and they suck one another's noses, and the dirt 
on them is so thick you couldn't scrape it off 
with a hoe." 

"Ivan Alexeyevich, what are these Baptists?" 
asked David, pouncing on the unfamiliar word. 

"Baptists? They worship God in their own 
fashion. A kind of sect, like the Old Believers." 

"Every fool goes crazy in his own fashion," 
added Knave. 

"As I was saying, I went to see Sergei Pla- 
tonovich," Ivan Alexeyevich continued his 
story, "and Atyopin was there, so he told me 
to wait outside. I sat down and waited and 
heard them talking through the door. Mokhov 
was saying there- was going to be a war with 
the Germans very soon; he had read it in a book. 
But Atyopin said there couldn't be a war 
between Germany and Russia." 

Ivan Alexeyevich so cleverly imitated Atyo- 
pin's lisp that David let out a short laugh, but, 
seeing Knave's sarcastic expression, immediate- 
ly shut up. 

" 'There can be no war with Germany 
because Germany's feeding on our grain,' " 
Ivan Alexeyevich continued to report the con- 
versation he had overheard. "Then I heard a 
a third voice: I found out afterwards it was the 
officer, old Listnitsky's son. 'There will be a 
war,' he said, 'between Germany and France, 


over the vineyards, but it has nothing to do 
with us.' What do you think, Osip Davydovich?" 
Ivan asked, turning to Stockman. 

"I'm no good at prophecies," Stockman 
replied, staring fixedly at the ring in his out- 
stretched hand. 

"Once they do start we'll have to be in it 
too. Like it or not, they'll drag us there by the 
hair," Knave declared. 

"It's like this, boys," Stockman said, gently 
taking the pincers out of the engineman's 
hands. He spoke seriously, evidently intending 
to explain the matter thoroughly. Knave seated 
himself comfortably on the bench, and David's 
lips shaped into an "O," revealing his strong 
teeth. In his concise vivid way Stockman 
outlined the struggle of the capitalist states for 
markets and colonies. When he had finished 
Ivan Alexeyevich asked indignantly: 

"Yes, but where do we come in?" 

"Your heads will ache from the drunken 
orgies of others," Stockman smiled. 

"Don't talk like a kid," Knave said sarcas- 
tically. "You know the saying: 'When masters 
quarrel, the peasants' forelocks shake.' " 

"Humph," Ivan Alexeyevich frowned as if 
he were trying to break down some great 
unyielding lump of thought. 

"What's that Listnitsky always calling on 


Mokhov for? After his daughter, eh?" David 

"The Korshunov brat has had a go there 
already," Knave interposed maliciously. 

"Ivan Alexeyevich, can't you hear? What's 
that officer nosing around there for?" David 

Ivan Alexeyevich started as if he had been 
struck behind the knees with a whiplash. 

"Eh? What were you saying?" 

"He's been having a nap! We're talking 
about Listnitsky." 

"He was on his way to the station. Yes, and 
here's some more news. When I went out of 
the house I saw . . . who do you think? Grigory 
Melekhov! He was standing outside with a 
whip in his hand. 'What are you doing here, 
Grigory?' I says. 'Taking Lieutenant Listnitsky 
to Millerovo Station.' " 

"He's Listnitsky's coachman," David ex- 

"Picking the crumbs from the rich man's 

"You're like a dog on a chain. Knave, you'd 
snarl at anyone," 

The conversation flagged. Ivan Alexeyevich 
rose to go. 

"Hurrying off to service?" Knave got in g 
last dig. 


"I do plenty of serving every day." 
Stockman accompanied his guests to the 
gate, then locked up the workshop and went 
into the house. 

The night before Easter Sunday the sky was 
overcast with masses of black cloud, and rain 
began to fall. A raw darkness weighed on the 
village. At dusk the ice on the Don began to 
crack with a protracted, rolling groan, and 
squeezed by a mass of broken ice the first floe 
emerged from the water. The ice broke up all 
at once over a stretch of four versts, and drifted 
downstream. The floes crashed against one 
another and against the banks, while in the 
background the church bell rang measuredly 
for service. At the first bend, where the Don 
sweeps to the left, the ice was dammed up. 
The roar and clash of the bumping floes reached 
the village. A crowd of lads had gathered in 
the churchyard, which was already dotted with 
puddles. Through the open doors came the 
muffled tones of the service, and lights gleamed 
with festive brightness in the latticed windows, 
while in the darkness of the yard the lads 
tickled and kissed the girls, and whispered 
dirty stories to one another. 

The churchwarden's lodge was crowded with 
Cossacks from villages all over the district. 
Weary with fatigue and the stuffiness of the 


room, people slept on benches, even on the 

Men were sitting on the rickety steps, smok- 
ing and talking about the weather and the 
winter crops. 

"When will your lot be going out in the 

"Should be moving about Thomas' day, I 

"That's all right for you, the land round 
your way is sandy." 

"Some of it is, this side of the gully there's 
a salt marsh." 

"The earth'll get plenty of moisture now." 

"When we ploughed last year it was like 
gristle, hard and sticky all the way over." 

"Dunya, where are you?" a high-pitched 
voice called from the steps of the lodge. 

From the churchyard gate a rough throaty 
voice could be heard blustering: "A fine place 
to be kissing, you. . . . Get out of here, you 
dirty young brats. What an idea!" 

"Can't you find a partner for yourself? Go 
and kiss the bitch in our yard," a wobbly 
young voice retorted from the darkness. 

"Bitch?! I'll learn you. . . ." 

A squelchy patter of running feet, a rustle of 


Water dripped from the roof with a glassy 
tinkle; and again that slow voice, clinging as 
the muddy black earth: 

"Been trying to buy a plough off Prokhor, 
offered him twelve rubles but he won't take it. 
He wouldn't let something go cheap, not 
him. . . ." 

From the Don came a smooth swishing, rus- 
tling and crunching, as though a buxom wench, 
dressed-up and tall as a poplar, were passing 
by, her great skirts rustling. 

At midnight, Mitka Korshunov, riding a 
horse bareback, clattered through the sticky 
darkness up to the church. He tied the bridle 
rein to the horse's mane, and gave her a smack 
on her steaming flanks. He listened to the 
squelch of the hoofs for a moment, then, adjust- 
ing his belt, he went into the churchyard. In 
the porch he removed his cap, bent his head 
devoutly, and thrusting aside the women, 
pressed up to the altar. The Cossacks were 
crowded in a black mass on the left; on the 
right was a motley throng of women. Mitka 
found his father in the front row, and gripping 
him by the elbow, whispered into his ear: 
"Father, come outside for a moment." 

As he pushed his way out of the church 
through the dense curtain of mingled odours, 
Mitka's nostrils quivered. He was overwhelmed 


by the vapour of burning wax, the odour of 
women's sweating bodies, the sepulchral stench 
of clothes brought out only at Christmas and 
Easter time, and the smell of damp leather, 
moth balls, and the windiness of fast-hungered 

In the porch Mitka put his mouth close to 
his father's ear and said: "Natalya's dying." 


Grigory returned on Palm Sunday from his 
journey with Yevgeny to the station. He found 
the thaw had eaten away the snow; the road 
had broken up within a couple of days. 

At a Ukrainian village some twenty-five 
versts from the station he all but lost his 
horses as he was crossing a stream. He had 
arrived at the village early in the evening. 
During the previous night the ice had broken 
up and started moving, and the stream, swollen 
and foaming with muddy brown water, threat- 
ened the streets. The inn at which he had 
stopped to feed the horses on the way out lay 
on the farther side of the stream. The water 
might easily rise still higher during the night, 
and Grigory decided to cross. 

He drove to the point where he had crossed 
the ice on the outward journey, and found the 


stream had overflowed its banks. A piece of 
fencing and half a cartwheel were eddying in 
the middle. There were fresh traces oi sledge 
runners on the bare sand at the edge. He halt- 
ed the sweating foam-flecked horses and 
jumped down to look at the marks more closely. 
At the water's edge the tracks turned a little to 
the left and disappeared into the stream. He 
measured the distance to the other side with 
his eyes: fifty paces at the most. He went to 
the horses to check the harness. At that mo- 
ment an aged Ukrainian came towards him 
from the nearest hut. 

"Is there a good crossing here?" Grigory 
asked him, waving his reins at the seething 
brown flood. 

"Some folk crossed there this morning." 

"Is it deep?" 

"No. But it might splash into your sleigh." 

Grigory gathered up the reins, and holding 
his knout ready, urged on the horses with a 
curt, imperative command. They moved unwill- 
ingly, snorting and snuffing at the water. Gri- 
gory cracked his whip and stood up on the 

The bay on the left tossed its head and 
suddenly pulled on the traces. Grigory glanced 
down at his feet; the water was swirling over 
the front of the sledge. At first the horses were 


wading up to their knees, but suddenly the 
stream rose to their breasts. Grigory tried to 
turn them back, but they refused to answer the 
rein and began to swim for it. The tail of the 
sledge was swung round by the current, and 
the horses' heads were forced upstream. The 
water flowed in waves over their backs, and 
the sledge rocked and pulled them back 

"Hey! Hey! To the right!" the Ukrainian 
shouted, running along the bank and waving 
his fur cap. 

In a wild fury Grigory kept shouting and 
urging on the horses. The water foamed in 
eddies behind the dragging sledge. The runners 
struck against a jutting pile, the remains of the 
bridge which had been swept away over- 
night, and the sledge turned over with extra- 
ordinary ease. With a gasp Grigory plunged in 
head first, but he did not lose his grip of the 
reins. While he was tossed about by the rock- 
ing sledge, the water dragged at his legs and 
the skirts of his sheepskin with gentle insist- 
ence. He succeeded in clutching a runner, 
dropped the reins, and hauled himself along 
hand over hand, making his way to the 
swingle-tree. He was about to seize the iron- 
shod end of the swingle-tree when the bay, in 
its struggle against the current, lashed out with 


its hindleg and struck him on the knee. Chok- 
ing, Grigory threw out his hands and caught at 
the traces. He felt himself being dragged away 
from the horses, his grip weakened. Every fibre 
in his body tingling with the cold, he managed 
to reach the horse's head, and the animal fixed 
the maddened, mortally terrified gaze of its 
bloodshot eyes straight into his dilated pupils. 

Again and again he grasped at the slippery 
leather reins, but they eluded his fingers. 
Somehow he managed at last to seize them. 
Abruptly his legs scraped along the ground. 
Dragging himself to the edge of the water, he 
stumbled forward and was knocked off his feet 
in the shallows by a horse's breast. 

Trampling over him, the horses tugged the 
sledge violently out of the water and, exhaust- 
ed, halted a few paces away, shuddering and 
steaming. Unconscious of any pain, Grigory 
jumped to his feet; the cold enveloped him as 
though in unbearably hot dough. He was 
trembling even more than the horses, and felt 
as weak on his legs as an unweaned infant. 
Slowly he gathered his wits, and turning the 
sledge on to its runners, drove the horses off 
at a gallop to get them warm. He flew into the 
street of the village as though attacking an 
enemy, and turned into the first open gate 
without slackening his pace. 


The host turned out to be a hospitable 
Ukrainian; he sent his son to attend to the 
horses and himself helped Grigory to undress. 
In a tone that brooked no refusal he ordered 
his wife to light the stove. While his own 
clothes were drying Grigory stretched himself 
out on top of the stove in his host's trousers. 
After a supper of meatless cabbage soup he 
went to sleep. 

He set off again long before dawn. A good 
hundred and thirty-five versts' driving lay 
before him, and every minute was precious. 
The untracked confusion of the flooded spring 
steppe was at hand; the melting snow had 
turned every little ravine or gully into a roar- 
ing torrent. 

The black, bare road exhausted the horses. 
Over the hard surface created by the early 
morning frost he reached a village lying four 
versts off his route, and stopped at a cross- 
road. The horses were steaming with sweat; 
behind him lay the gleaming track of the 
sledge runners in the ground. He abandoned 
the sledge and set off again, riding one horse 
bareback and leading the other by the reins. 
He arrived at Yagodnoye in the morning on 
Palm Sunday. 

Old Listnitsky listened attentively to his 
story of the journey, and went to look at the 


horses. Sashka was leading them up and down 
the yard, angrily eyeing their sunken flanks. 

"How are they?" the master asked. "They 
haven't been overdriven, have they?" 

"No. The bay's got a sore on his chest where 
his collar rubbed, but it's nothing," Sashka an- 
swered without stopping the horses. 

"Go and get some rest," Listnitsky motioned 
to Grigory with his hand. Grigory went to his 
room but he had only one night's rest. The 
next morning Venyamin came into the room in 
a new sateen shirt, his fat face beaming, and 
called to him: 

"Grigory, the master wants you. At once." 

The general was shuffling about the hall in 
felt slippers. Only after Grigory had coughed 
twice did he look up. 

"What do you want?" 

"You sent for me." 

"Ah, yes! Go and saddle the stallion and my 
horse. Tell Lukerya not to feed the dogs. 
They're going hunting." 

Grigory turned to leave the room. His 
master stopped him with a shout: "D'you hear? 
And you're going with me." 

Aksinya thrust a cake into the pocket of 
Grigory's coat and hissed: "He won't even let 
a man eat, the devil take him. Put on your 
scarf at least, Grisha." 


Grigory led the saddled horses to the fence, 
and whistled to the dogs. Listnitsky came out, 
attired in a jerkin of blue cloth and girdled 
with an ornamental leather belt. A nickel- 
plated flask in a cork case was slung at his 
back; the whip hanging from his arm trailed 
behind him like a snake. 

As he held the bridle for his master to 
mount Grigory was astonished at the ease with 
which old Listnitsky hoisted his bony body into 
the saddle. "Keep close behind me," the gener- 
al curtly ordered, as he lovingly gathered the 
reins in his gloved hand. 

Grigory rode the stallion. Its hind hoofs 
were not shod, and as it trod on the shards of 
ice it slipped and sat on its hind quarters. The 
old general sat hunched but firm in the saddle. 

The horses moved on at a good pace. The 
stallion strained at the bit and arched its short 
neck, squinting round at its rider and trying to 
bite his knees. When they reached the top of 
the rise, Listnitsky put his horse into a fast 
trot. The chain of hounds followed Grigory; the 
old black bitch ran with her muzzle touching 
the end of the stallion's tail. The horse tried to 
reach her by falling back on its hind quarters, 
but the bitch dropped behind, looking up 
plaintively, like an old woman, at Grigory as 
he glanced round. 

21—1933 321 

They reached their objective, the Olshansky 
ravine, in half an hour. Listnitsky rode through 
the undergrowth along the brow of the slope. 
Grigory dropped down into the rain-washed 
ravine, cautiously avoiding the numerous pot- 
holes. From time to time he looked up, and 
through the steely-blue of a straggling and 
naked elder grove he saw Listnitsky's clean-cut 
figure. As the old man leaned forward and rose 
in his stirrups, his blue, belted coat wrinkled 
at the back. Behind him the hounds were run- 
ning in a bunch along the undulating ridge. As 
he rode across the steep watercourse Grigory 
leaned back in the saddle. 

"I could do with a smoke," he thought, "I'll 
let go of the reins and get my pouch." Pulling 
off his glove, Grigory fumbled in his pocket 
for some cigarette paper. 

"After him!" the shout came like a pistol 
shot from the other side of the ridge. 

Grigory looked up sharply, smd saw Listni- 
tsky galloping up the slope with upraised 
whip. . . . 

"After him!" 

Slipping along with body close to the 
ground, a moulting dirty-brown wolf was run- 
ning swiftly across the marshy rush and reedy- 
grown bottom of the ravine. Leaping, a gully, it 
stopped and turned quickly, catching sight of 


the dogs. They were coming after it spread out 
in horseshoe formation, to cut it off from the 
wood at the end of the ravine. 

With a springy stride the wolf leaped on to 
a small hillock and headed for the wood. The 
old bitch was cutting it off, husbanding her 
strength in short strides, another hound, one of 
the best and fiercest in the pack, was coming 
up from behind. The wolf hesitated for a 
moment, and as Grigory rode up out of the 
ravine he lost sight of it. When next he had a 
good view from the hillock the wolf was far 
away in the steppe, making for a neighbouring 
ravine. Grigory could see the hounds running 
through the undergrowth behind it, and old 
Listnitsky riding slightly to the side, belabour- 
ing his horse with the butt of his whip. As the 
wolf reached the ravine the hounds began to 
overtake it, and one, the grizzled hound known 
as Hawk, seemed to hang like a whitish rag 
from the wolf's loins. 

"After him!" the shout was wafted back to 

Grigory put his horse into a gallop, vainly 
trying to see what was happening ahead of 
him. His eyes were streaming with tears and 
his ears were stuffed up with the whistling 
wind. He was suddenly fired by the excitement 
of the hunt. Bending over his horse's neck, he 

21* 323 

flew along at a mad gallop. When he reached 
the ravine neither wolf nor dogs were to be 
seen. A moment or two later Listnitsky over- 
took him. Reining in his horse sharply he 
shouted : 

"Which way did they go?" 

"Into the ravine, I think." 

"You overtake them on the left. After them!" 
The old man dug his heels into his horse's 
flanks and rode off to the right. Grigory dropped 
into a hollow, and with whip and shout 
rode his horse hard for a verst and a half. The 
damp, sticky earth flew up under the hoofs, 
striking him on the face. The long ravine 
curved to the right and branched into three. 
Grigory crossed the first fork, and then caught 
sight of the dark chain of hounds chasing the 
wolf across the steppe. The animal had been 
headed off from the heart of the ravine, which 
was densely overgrown with oaks and alders, 
and was now making for a dry brush and this- 
tle-covered dell. 

Rising in his stirrups, and wiping the tears 
from his wind-lashed eyes with his sleeve, 
Grigory watched them. Glancing momentarily 
to the left, he realized that he was in the steppe 
close to his native village. Near by lay the 
irregular square of land which he and Natalya 
had ploughed in the autumn. He deliberately 


guided the stallion across the ploughed land, 
and during the few moments in which the 
animal was sliding and stumbling over the 
clods the zest for the hunt died to ashes within 
him. He now calmly urged on the heavily- 
sweating horse, and glancing round to see 
whether Listnitsky was looking, dropped into 
an easy trot. 

Some distance away he could see the desert- 
ed camping quarters of the ploughmen; a little 
farther off three pairs of bullocks were drag- 
ging a plough across the fresh, velvety soil. 

From our village, surely. Whose land is that? 
That's not Anikushka, is it? Grigory screwed 
up his eyes trying to recognize the man follow- 
ing the plough. 

He saw two Cossacks drop the plough and 
run to head off the wolf from the near-by 
ravine. One, in a peaked, red-banded cap, the 
strap under his chin, was waving an iron bar. 
Suddenly the wolf squatted down in a deep 
furrow. The foremost hound flew right over it 
and fell with its forelegs doubled under it; the 
old bitch following tried to stop, her hind 
quarters scraping along the cloddy, ploughed 
ground; but unable to halt in time, she tumbled 
against the wolf. The hunted animal shook its 
head violently, and the bitch ricochetted off it. 
Now the mass of hounds fastened on the wolf, 


and they all dragged for some paces over the 
ploughed land. Grigory was off his horse half 
a minute before his master. He fell to his 
knees, drawing back his hunting knife. 

"There! In the throat!" the Cossack with the 
iron bar cried in a voice which Grigory knew 
well. Panting heavily, he dropped down at 
Grigory's side, and dragging away the hound 
which had fastened on the hunted animal's 
belly, gripped the wolf's forelegs in one hand. 
Grigory felt under the animal's shaggy fur for 
its windpipe, and drew the knife across it. 

"The dogs! The dogs! Drive them off," old 
Listnitsky croaked as he dropped from the 

Grigory with difficulty managed to drive 
away the dogs, then glanced towards his mas- 
ter. Standing a little way off was Stepan Asta- 
khov. His face working strangely, he was turn- 
ing the iron bar over and over in his hands. 

"Where are you from, my man?" Listnitsky 
turned to Stepan. 

"From Tatarsky," Stepan answered after a 
momentary hesitation, and took a step in Gri- 
gory's direction, 

"What's your name?" Listnitsky asked. 


"When are you going home, my lad?" 



Listnitsky pointed to the wolf with his foot. 
The animal's jaws were snapping feebly in its 
death agony and one of its hindlegs, with a 
brownish tuft . of fur sticking to it, was stiffly 

"Bring us that carcass," he said. "I'll pay 
whatever it costs." He wiped the sweat from 
his purple face with his scarf, turned away, 
and slipped the flask off his back. 

Grigory went to his stallion. As he set foot 
in the stirrup he glanced back. Trembling 
uncontrollably, Stepan was coming towards 
him, his great, heavy fists pressed against his 


On Good Friday night the women gathered 
in the house of Korshunov's neighbour, Pela- 
geya Maidannikova, for a talk. Her husband 
Gavrila had written from Lodz that he was 
trying to get furlough for Easter. Pelageya had 
whitewashed the walls and tidied up the hut 
as early as the Monday before Easter, and 
from Thursday onward she waited expectantly, 
running to the gate and standing at the fence, 
bare-headed and gaunt, the signs of her 
pregnancy showing in her face. Shading her 
eyes with her palm she stared down the road to 
see whether he was coming. Gavrila had 


returned from his regiment the previous year, 
bringing his wife a present of Polish chintz. He 
had spent four nights with her, and on the 
fifth day had got drunk, cursed in Polish and 
German, and with tears in his eyes had sat 
singing an old Cossack song about Poland that 
dated from 1831. His friends and brothers had 
sat with him, singing and drinking vodka 
before dinner. 

They said of Poland, it's a very rich land. 
But we found out it's as poor as the damned. 
And in this said Poland there stands an inn, 
A Polish inn, belongs to the Polish king. 
And at this said inn three lads had a drink, 
A Prussian, a Pole, and a Don Cossack 

The Prussian, he drinks vodka, and pays his 

The Pole, he drinks vodka, and pays some 

The Cossack, he drinks-and the inn's as 

poor as before. 
Then he walks around with clinking spur 
And the barmaid sees his eye is on her. 
"Oh, mistress, dear, come live with me, 
"Come live with me, on the quiet Don, 
"The folk on the Don, they don't live your 



"Don't weave, don't spin, don't sow, don't 


"Don't sow, don't mow, but they dress very 


After dinner Gavrila had said good-bye to his 
family and ridden off. And from that day Pela- 
geya had begun to watch the hem of her skirt. 

She explained to Natalya Korshunova how 
she came to be with child. "A day or two before 
Gavrila arrived, I had a dream," she said. "I 
was going through the meadow, and I saw our 
old cow in front of me, the one we had sold 
last holiday. She was going along with the milk 
dripping from her teats. Lord, I thought, 
however did I come to milk her so badly? Next 
day old Drozdikha came for some hops, and 1 
told her my dream. And she told me to break 
a bit of wax off a candle, roll it into a ball, and 
to take and bury it in some cowdung, for 
misfortune was watching at the window. I ran 
to do as she said, but I couldn't find the candle. 
I had had one, I knew, but the children must 
have taken it to catch tarantulas. Then Gavrila 
arrived, and trouble with him. Before that I 
had gone for three years without trouble, and 
now look at me!" She prodded her swollen 

Pelageya fretted while waiting for her 


husband. She was bored with her own com- 
pany, and so on the Friday she invited her 
women friends to come and spend the evening 
with her. Natalya came with an unfinished 
stocking she was knitting, for when spring 
came Grandad Grishaka felt the cold all the 
more. She was unnaturally full of high spirits, 
and laughed more than necessary at the others' 
jokes, trying to hide her yearning for her hus- 
band from them. Pelageya was sitting on the 
stove with her bare, violet-veined legs dan- 
gling, and bantering the young shrewish Frosya. 

"How d'you come to beat your husband, 

"Don't you know how? On the back, on the 
head, and wherever I could lay my hands on 

"I didn't mean that, I meant how did it 

"It just happened," Frosya answered unwill- 

"If you were to catch your husband with 
another woman would you keep your tongue 
quiet?" a tall gaunt woman asked deliberately. 

"Tell us all about it, Frosya." 

"There's nothing to tell. . . ." 

"Oh, come on, we're all friends here." 

Spitting the husk of a sunflower seed into 
her hand, Frosya smiled: 


"Well, I'd noticed his goings-on for a long 
time, and then someone told me he'd been 
carrying on at the mill with a hussy from 
across the Don. I went out and found them by 
the mill." 

"Any news of your husband, Natalya?" the 
gaunt woman interrupted, turning to Natalya. 

"He's at Yagodnoye," she replied in a 

"Do you think of living with him or not?" 

"She might think of it, but he doesn't," their 
hostess intervened. Natalya felt the hot blood 
surging to her face. She bent her head over 
her stocking and glanced from under her 
brows at the women. Realizing that she could 
not hide her flush of shame from them, she 
deliberately, yet so clumsily that everybody 
noticed it, sent the ball of wool rolling from 
her knees, and then bent down and groped 
over the cold floor. 

"Spit on him, woman! So long as you have 
a neck, you'll always find a yoke for it," one 
woman advised her with unconcealed pity in 
her voice. 

Natalya's affected liveliness died away like a 
spark in the wind. The women's conversation 
turned to the latest scandal, to tittle-tattle and 
gossip. Natalya knitted in silence. She forced 
herself to sit on until the party broke up, and 


then went home, with a half-formed decision in 
her mind. Shame for her uncertain situation 
(for she still would not believe that Grigory 
had gone for ever, and was ready to forgive 
him and take him back) drove her on to a 
further step. She resolved to send a letter 
secretly to him, in order to learn whether he 
had gone for good or whether he might change 
his mind. When she reached home she found 
Grishaka sitting in his little room reading an 
old, greasy leather-bound copy of the Gospels. 
Her father was in the kitchen mending a fish- 
ing-net and listening to a story Mikhei was 
telling him about a recent murder. Her mother 
had put the children to bed and was asleep 
over the ledge above stove, the blackened soles 
of her feet facing the door. Natalya took off 
her jacket and wandered aimlessly about the 
rooms. In one corner of the front room there 
was a pile of hempreed and the mice could be 
heard scampering and squeaking. 

She stopped for a moment in her grandfa- 
ther's room, staring dully at the stack of devo- 
tional books under the icons. 

"Grandad, have you any paper?" 

"What sort of paper?" Grishaka asked, 
puckering his forehead into a frown. 

"Paper to write on." 

The old man fumbled in a psalter, and drew 


out a crumpled sheet of paper that smelt 
strongly of incense. 

"And a pencil?" 

"Ask your father. Go away, my dear, and 
don't bother me." 

She obtained a stump of pencil from her 
father, and sitting down at the table, struggled 
again with the thoughts that had tortured her 
for so long, thoughts that evoked a numb, 
gnawing pain in her heart. 

She wrote: 

Grigory Panteleyevich, 

Tell me how I am to live, and whether my 
lite is quite lost or not. You leit home and you 
didn't say a single word to me. I haven't done 
you any wrong, and I've waited lor you to un- 
tie my hands, to say you've gone for good, but 
you've gone away and are as silent as the grave. 

I thought you had gone oft in the heat of the 
moment, and waited for you to come hack, hut 
I don't want to come between you. Better one 
should he trodden into the ground than two. 
Have pity for once and write. Then I shall 
know what to think, but now I stand in the 
middle of the road. 

Don't be angry with me, Grisha, for the love 
of Christ. 



Next morning she promised vodka to Het- 
Baba and persuaded him to ride with the 
letter to Yagodnoye. Moody in expectation of 
his drinking spell, Het-Baba led a horse into 
the yard, and without informing his master 
went jogging off to Yagodnoye. 

On his horse he looked awkward, as any 
stranger among Cossack riders does; his ragged 
elbows jerked as he trotted. The Cossack 
children playing in the street sent him off with 
jeering cries. 

"Dirty Ukrainian!" 

"Mind you don't fall off!" 

"Looks like a dog on a fence!" 

He returned in the afternoon. He brought 
with him a piece of blue sugar-bag paper, and 
as he drew it out of his pocket he winked at 

"The road was terrible. I got such a shak- 
ing it near brought my liver up." 

Natalya read the note, and her face turned 
grey. The four words scribbled on the paper 
entered her heart like sharp teeth rending a 

Live alone. -Grigory Melekhou. 

Hurriedly, as though not trusting her own 
strength, Natalya went into the house and lay 
down on her bed. Her mother was lighting the 


stove for the night, in order to have the place 
tidy early on Easter Sunday morning and to 
get the Easter cake ready in time. 

"Natalya, come and give me a hand," she 
called to her daughter. 

"I've got a headache. Mamma, I'll lie down 
for a bit." 

Her mother put her head in at the door. 
"Drink some pickle juice, it'll put you right in 
no time." 

Natalya licked her cold lips with her dry 
tongue and made no reply. 

She lay until evening, her head covered with 
a warm woollen shawl, a light tremor shaking 
her huddled body. Miron and Grishaka were 
about to go off to church when she got up and 
went into the kitchen. Beads of perspiration 
shone on her temples under her smoothly- 
combed hair, and her eyes were dim with an 
unhealthy, oily film. 

As Miron fastened his fly-buttons, he 
glanced at his daughter: 

"A fine time to fall sick. Daughter. Come 
along with us to the service." 

"You go, I'll come along later." 

"In time to go home again, I expect?" 

"No, I'll come when I've dressed." 

The men went out. Lukinichna and Natalya 
were left in the kitchen. Natalya went listlessly 


backward and forward from the chest to the 
bed, stared with unseeing eyes at the jumbled 
heap of clothing in the chest, her lips whisper- 
ing, the same agonizing thoughts in her mind. 
Lukinichna decided she could not make up her 
mind which clothes to wear, and with motherly 
kindness she suggested: "Wear my blue skirt, 
dear. It will just fit you. Shall I get it for 



Natalya had had no new clothes made for 
Easter, and Lukinichna, suddenly remembering 
how before she married her daughter had 
loved to wear her dark-blue hobble skirt, pressed 
Natalya to take it, thinking she was wor- 
ried about what to wear, 

"No, I'll go in this!" Natalya carefully drew 
out her green skirt, and suddenly remembered 
that she had been wearing it when Grigory 
first visited her as her future bridegroom, 
when he had shamed her with that first fleet- 
ing kiss by the barn. Shaking with sobs, she 
fell forward against the raised lid of the chest. 

"Natalya, what is the matter?" her mother 
exclaimed, clapping her hands. 

Natalya choked down her desire to scream 
and, mastering herself, gave a rasping, wooden 

"I don't know what's come over me today." 

"Oh, Natalya, I've noticed. . . ." 


"Well, and what have you noticed. 
Mamma?" she cried with unexpected irri- 
tation, crumpling the green skirt in her fin- 

"You can't go on like this; what you need is 
a husband." 

"One was enough for me!" 

She went to her room, and quickly returned 
to the kitchen, dressed, girlishly slender, a 
bluish mournful flush in her pallid cheeks. 

"You go on, I'm not ready yet," her mother 

Pushing a handkerchief into her sleeve, Na- 
talya went out. The rumble of the floating ice 
and the bracing tang of thaw dampness was 
wafted to her on the wind. Holding up her skirt 
in her left hand, picking her way across the 
pearly-blue puddles, she reached the church. 
On the way she attempted to recover her form- 
er comparatively tranquil state of mind, 
thinking of the holiday, of everything vaguely 
and in snatches. But her thoughts returned 
stubbornly to the scrap of blue paper hidden 
at her breast, to Grigory and the happy wom- 
an who was now complacently laughing at her, 
perhaps even pitying her. 

As she entered the churchyard some lads 
barred her way. She passed round them, and 
heard the whisper: 

22—1933 337 

"Who is she? Did you see?" 

"Natalya Korshunova." 

"She's ruptured, they say. That's why her 
husband left her." 

"That's not true. She got playing about with 
her father-in-law, lame Pantelei." 

"Oh, so that's it! And is that why Grigory 
ran away from home?" 

"That's right. And she's still at it. . . ." 

Stumbling over the uneven stones, followed 
by the shameful, filthy whispering, she reached 
the church porch. The girls standing in the 
porch giggled as she turned and made her 
way to the farther gate. Swaying drunkenly, 
she ran home. At the gate of the yard she took 
a quick breath and then entered, stumbling 
over the hem of her skirt, biting her lips till 
the blood came. Through the lilac darkness 
the open doorway of the shed yawned blackly. 
With fierce determination she gathered her last 
strength, ran to the door and hastily stepped 
across the threshold. The shed was dry and 
cold, and smelled of leather harness and musty 
straw. Gropingly, without thought or feeling, 
in a sombre yearning which clawed at her 
shamed and despairing soul, she made her way 
to a comer. There she picked up a scythe by 
the handle, removed the blade (her movements 
were deliberately assured and precise); andi, 


throwing back her head, in a sudden joyous 
fire of resolution slashed her throat with its 
point. She fell as though struck down by the 
burning, savage pain, and vaguely aware that 
she had not completely carried out her inten- 
tion, she struggled on to all fours, then on to 
her knees. Hurriedly (she was terrified by the 
blood pouring over her chest), with trembling 
fingers she tore off the buttons of her jacket, 
then with one hand she drew aside her taut, un- 
yielding breast, and with the other she guided 
the point of the scythe. She crawled on her 
knees to the wall, thrust the blunt end of the 
scythe blade into it, and throwing her arms 
behind her head, pressed her chest firmly for- 
ward, forward. . . . She clearly heard and felt 
the revolting cabbage-like scrunch of the rend- 
ing flesh; a rising wave of intense pain flowed 
over her breast to her throat, and pressed ring- 
ing needles into her ears. . . . 

The kitchen door scraped. Lukinichna groped 
her way down the steps. From the belfry came 
the measured tolling of the church bell. With 
an incessant grinding roar the giant upreared 
floes were floating down the Don. The joyous, 
full-flowing, liberated river was carrying its 
icy fetters away down to the Sea of Azov. 

22* 339 


Stepan walked up to Grigory and, seizing 
the horse's stirrup, pressed hard against its 
sweating flank. 

"Well, how are you, Grigory?" 
"Praise be!" 

"What are you thinking about? Huh?" 
"What should I be thinking about?" 
"You've carried off another man's wife. . . . 
Having your will of her?" 
"Let go of the stirrup." 
"Don't be scared! I won't hit you." 
"I'm not afraid. Don't start that!" Grigory 
flushed and raised his voice. 

"I shan't fight you today. I don't want to. . . . 
But mark my words, Grigory, sooner or later 
I'll kill you." 

" 'We'll see,' the blind man said!" 
"Mark my words well. You've wronged me. 
You've gelded my life like a hog's. You see 
there . , ." he stretched out his hands with their 
grimy palms upward. "I'm ploughing, and the 
Lord knows what for. Do I need it for myself? 
I could shift around a bit and get through the 
winter that way. It's only the loneliness of it 
all that gets me down. You've done me a great 
wrong, Grigory." 


"It's no good complaining to me. The full 
man doesn't understand the hungry," 

"That's true," Stepan agreed, staring up into 
Grigory's face. And suddenly he broke into a 
simple, boyish smile which splintered the cor- 
ners of his eyes into tiny cracks. "I'm sorry 
only for one thing, lad, very sorry. . . . You re- 
member the year before last, that village 
fight at Shrovetide?" 

"No, I don't." 

"The day they killed the fuller. When the 
single men fought the married, don't you re- 
member? Remember how I chased after you? 
You were young and weak then, a green rush 
compared to me. I spared you that time, but 
if I'd hit you as you were running away, I'd 
have split you in two. You ran quickly, all 
springy-like; if I'd struck you hard in the ribs 
you wouldn't be living in the world today." 

"Don't let it worry you, we'll have another go 
at each other yet." 

Stepan rubbed his forehead as though trying 
to recall something. Old Listnitsky, leading his 
horse by the reins, called to Grigory. Still 
holding the stirrup with his left hand, Stepan 
walked alongside the stallion, Grigory watched 
his every movement. He noticed Stepan's 
drooping chestnut moustache, the heavy scrub 
on his }ong-unshaven chin, the cracked paten t- 


leather strap of his military cap. His dirty face, 
marked with white runnels of sweat, was sad 
and strangely unfamiliar. As he looked Grigory 
felt that he might well be gazing from a hill- 
top at the distant steppe veiled in a rainy mist. 
A grey weariness and emptiness ashened Ste- 
pan's features. He dropped behind without a 
word of farewell. Grigory rode on at a walk. 

"Wait a bit. And how is . . . how is Aksi- 

Knocking a lump of earth off his boot with 
the whip, Grigory replied: "Oh, she's all 

He halted the stallion and glanced back. 
Stepan was standing with his feet planted wide 
apart, chewing a stalk between his teeth. For 
a moment Grigory suddenly felt unaccountably 
sorry for him, but jealousy rose uppermost. 
Turning in his saddle, he shouted: 

"She doesn't miss you, don't worry!" 

"Is that so?" 

Grigory lashed his horse between the ears 
and galloped away without replying. 


Aksinya confessed her pregnancy to Grigory 
only during the sixth month, when she was no 
longer able to conceal it from him. She had 


kept silent so long because she was afraid he 
would not believe it was his child she was car- 
rying. During the first months of anxious ex- 
pectation she had sometimes been sick without 
Grigory noticing it, or if he had noticed it, 
without his guessing the reason why. 

Wrought up, she told him one evening, anx- 
iously scanning his face the while for any 
change in its expression. But he turned away 
to the window and coughed with vexation. 

"Why didn't you tell me before?" 

"I was afraid to, Grisha. I thought you might 
throw me over. . . ." 

Drumming his fingers on the back of the bed, 
he asked: 

"Is it to be soon?" 

"The beginning of August, I think." 

"Is it Stepan's?" 

"No, it's yours!" 

"So you say." 

"Reckon up for yourself. From the day of the 
wood-cutting it's. . . ." 

"Don't make things up, Aksinya! Even if it 
was Stepan's, what could you do about it? I 
want an honest answer." 

Weeping angry tears, Aksinya sat down on 
the bench and broke into a fierce whisper. 

"I lived with him so many years and noth- 
ing ever happened! Think for yourself! I'm 


not an ailing Woman. ... I must have got it 
from you. . . . And you. . . ." 

Grigory talked no more about the matter. A 
new thread of wary aloofness and a light 
mocking pity was woven into his attitude to 
Aksinya. She withdrew into herself, asking for 
no favours. During the summer she lost her 
good looks, but pregnancy hardly affected her 
shapely figure; her general fullness concealed 
her condition, and although her face was thin- 
ner it gained a new beauty from her warmly- 
glowing eyes. She easily managed her work as 
cook, especially as that year fewer labourers 
were employed on the estate. 

Old Sashka grew fond of Aksinya, with the 
capricious fondness of old age. Perhaps it was 
because she treated him with daughterly care: 
washed his linen, mended his shirts, gave him 
softer bits at the table. After seeing to his 
horses old Sashka would come into the kitchen, 
fetch water, mash potatoes for the pigs, do all 
kinds of odd jobs, and hopping about round 
her, expose the bare gums of his mouth as" he 

"You're good to me, and I'll repay you. I'll 
do anything for you, Aksinya. I'd have been 
done for without a woman's care. The lice were 
eating me up. If you ever want anything, just 
ask me." 


Yevgeny had arranged for his coachman to 
be freed from the spring training camp, and 
Grigory worked at the mowing, occasionally 
drove old Listnitsky to the district centre, and 
spent the rest of the time hunting with him 
after bustards. The easy-going, comfortable life 
began to spoil him. He grew lazy and stout, 
and looked older than his years. The only thing 
that worried him was the thought of his forth- 
coming army service. He had neither horse nor 
equipment, and he could hope for nothing from 
his father. He saved the wages he received for 
himself and Aksinya, and even stinted him- 
self on tobacco, hoping to be able to buy a 
horse without having to beg from his father. 
Old Listnitsky also promised to help him. Gri- 
gory's presentiment that his father would give 
him nothing was quickly confirmed. At the end 
of July Pyotr visited his brother, and in the 
course of conversation mentioned that his 
father was as angry with him as ever, and had 
declared that he wouldn't help him get a horse. 
"Let him go to the local command for one," he 
had said. 

"He needn't worry, I'll go to do my service 
on my own horse," Grigory declared, stressing 
"my own." 

"How'll you get it? Dance for it?" Pyotr 
asked, chewing his moustache. 


"I'll dance for it, or beg for it, and if I can't 
get it that way I'll steal it." 

"Good lad!" 

"I'm going to buy a horse with my wages," 
Grigory said more seriously. 

Pyotr sat on the steps, asking Grigory about 
his work, food, wages, and chewing the ends 
of his moustache, nodded his approval. Having 
completed his inquiries, as he turned to go, he 
said to his brother: 

"You'd better come back, it's no good stick- 
ing on your high horse. Do you expect to earn 
more this way?" 

"No, I don't." 

"Are you thinking of staying with her?" 

"With who?" 

"With this one." 

"Yes. Why not?" 

"Oh, I just wondered." 

As Grigory went to see his brother off he 
asked at last: "How's everything at home?" 

iPyotr laughed as he untied his horse from 
the railing of the steps. 

"You've got as many homes as a hare has 
holes! Everything's all right. Mother misses 
you. We've got in the hay, three loads of it." 

Grigory worriedly scanned the old mare his 
brother was riding: "No foal this year?" 

"No, Brother, she's barren. But the bay 


which we got from Christonya has foaled. A 
stallion it is, a good one too. Long in the legs, 
sound pasterns, and a strong chest on him. It'll 
be a good horse." 

Grigory sighed. "I miss the village, Pyotr," 
he said. "I miss the Don. You never see run- 
ning water here. It's a dreary hole!" 

"Come and see us," Pyotr replied as he 
hoisted his body on to the mare's bony spine. 

"Some day." 

"Well, good-bye." 

"A good journey." 

Pyotr had ridden out of the yard when, re- 
membering something, he called to Grigory 
who was still standing on the steps: 

"Natalya ... I'd forgotten ... a terrible 
thing. . . ." 

The wind hovering vulture-like over the 
farm carried the end of the sentence away from 
Grigory's ears. Pyotr and the horse were en- 
veloped in velvety dust, and Grigory shrugged 
his shoulders and went off to the stables. 

The summer was bone-dry. Little rain fell 
and the corn ripened early. As soon as the rye 
was garnered the barley was ripe and yellow. 
The four day-labourers and Grigory went out 
to reap it. 

Aksinya had finished work early that day, 
and she asked Grigory to take her with him. 


Despite his attempt to dissuade her, she quick- 
ly threw a kerchief over her head, ran out, and 
caught up with the wagon in which the men 
were riding. 

The event which Aksinya anticipated with 
yearning and joyous impatience, and Grigory 
with vague apprehension, happened during the 
harvesting. Feeling the symptoms, she threw 
down the rake and lay under a stook. Her trav- 
ail came on quickly. Biting her blackened 
tongue, she lay flat on the ground. The labour- 
ers with the reaping machine passed her on 
the turn and shouted. One of them, a young 
man with a festering sore on his nose and 
numerous folds in his yellow face that looked 
as if it has been carved out of wood, called 
out to her: 

"Hey, you! Get up, or you'll melt!" 

Grigory got one of the men to take his place 
at the machine and went across to her. 

"What's the matter?" 

Her lips writhing uncontrollably, she said 

"I'm in labour. . . ." 

"I told you not to come, you devil's bitch! 
Now what are we to do?" 

"Don't be angry with me, Grisha. . .! Oh. . .! 
Oh, . . ! Grisha, harness the horse to the wag- 
on. I must get home. . . . How could I, here 


. . . with the Cossacks . . ." she moaned, as the 
pain gripped her like an iron band. 

Grigory ran for the horse. It was grazing in 
a hollow a little way off, and by the time he 
drove up, Aksinya had struggled on to all 
fours, thrust her head into a pile of dusty bar- 
ley, and was spitting out the prickly ears she 
had chewed in her pain. She fixed her dilated 
eyes vacantly on Grigory, and set her teeth 
into her crumpled apron to prevent the labour- 
ers from hearing her horrible, rending cry. 

Grigory lifted her into the wagon and drove 
the horse fast towards the estate. 

"Oh! Don't hurry. . . . Oh, death! You're . . . 
shaking . . . me . . ." Aksinya screamed as her 
head knocked on the bottom of the wagon. 

Grigory silently plied the whip and swung 
the reins around his head, without a glance 
back at her. 

Pressing her cheeks with her palms, her 
staring, frenzied eyes rolling wildly, Aksinya 
bounced about in the wagon as it swung from 
side to side over the bumpy, little-used road, 
Grigory kept the horse at a gallop; the shaft- 
bow bobbed up and down before his eyes, ob- 
scuring a dazzling white cloud that hung like 
polished crystal in the sky. For a moment Ak- 
sinya ceased her shrieking howls. The wheels 
rattled, and her head thudded heavily against 


the bottom-board. At first her silence did not 
impress itself on Grigory, but then he glanced 
back. Aksinya was lying with a horribly dis- 
torted face, her cheek pressed hard against the 
side of the wagon, her jaws working like a 
fish flung ashore. The sweat was pouring from 
her brow into the deep sockets of her eyes. 
Grigory turned and raised her head, putting 
his crumpled cap under it. Glancing sidelong 
at him, she said firmly: 

"I shall die, Grisha. And that's all there is 
to it!" 

Grigory shuddered; a chill ran down his 
body to his toes. He sought for words of en- 
couragement, of comfort, but could not find 
them. His lips twisted harshly and he burst 
out: "Don't talk nonsense, you fool!" Then he 
shook his head, and leaning over backwards, 
squeezed her foot: "Aksinya, my little 
pigeon. . . ." 

The pain died away and left Aksinya for a 
moment, then returned with redoubled force. 
Feeling something rending her belly, she 
arched her body and pierced Grigory's ears 
with a terrifying, rising scream. Grigory fran- 
tically whipped up the horse. 

Then above the rattle of the wheels Grigory 
heard her thin, feeble voice: 



He reined in the horse and turned his head. 
Aksinya lay in a pool of blood, her arms flung 
out. Between her legs a living thing was stir- 
ring and squealing. Grigory frenziedly jumped 
down from the wagon and stumbled to the 
back. Staring into Aksinya's panting, burning 
mouth, he guessed rather than heard the words : 

"Bite through the cord ... tie it with cot- 
ton , . . from your shirt. . . ." 

With trembling fingers he tore strands of 
threads from the sleeve of his cotton shirt, and 
screwing up his eyes till it hurt, he bit through 
the navel cord and carefully tied up the bleed- 
ing end with cotton. 


The estate of Yagodnoye clung to the side of 
the broad dry valley like a growth. The wind 
blew changeably from north or south; the 
sun floated in the bluish whiteness of the sky; 
autumn rustled in on the heels of summer, 
winter clamped down with its frost and snow, 
but Yagodnoye remained sunk in its wooden 
torpor. So the days passed one after the other, 
alike as twins, and always the estate was cut 
off from the rest of the world. 

The black whisperer-ducks with red rings 
like spectacles roimd their eyes still waddled 


about the farmyard; the guinea-fowls were 
scattered about like beady rain; gawdy-feath- 
ered peacocks miaowed throatily like cats from 
the stable roof. The old general was fond of 
all kinds of birds, and even kept a maimed 
crane. In November, when it heard the faint 
call of the wild cranes flying to the south, it 
wrung the heart-strings with its copper-tongued 
cry of yearning. But it could not fly, for 
one wing hung uselessly at its side. As the 
general stood at the window and watched the 
bird stretching out its neck and jumping, flut- 
tering off the ground, he laughed opening his 
big mouth under the grey awning of his mous- 
tache, and the deep tones of his laughter rocked 
through the empty white-walled hall. 

Venyamin carried his fuzzy head as high as 
ever, and spent whole days alone in the ante- 
room, playing cards with himself. Tikhon was 
as jealous as ever of his pock-marked mistress 
and Sashka, the day-labourers, Grigory, the 
master and even the crane to whom Lukerya 
was devoting the tenderness which overflowed 
her widowed heart. Every now and then old 
Sashka would get drunk and beg for twenty- 
kopeck pieces under old Listnitsky's window. 

During all the time of Grigory's stay only 
two events disturbed the mildewed torpor of 
the sleepy, monotonous life of Yagodnoye: the 


coming of Aksinya's child, and the loss of a 
prize gander. The inhabitants of Yagodnoye 
quickly grew accustomed to the baby girl, and 
finding some of the gander's feathers in the 
meadow, concluded that a fox had carried him 
off, and settled down again to their peaceful 

In the morning, when he awoke, the master 
would call in Venyamin. 

"Did you dream of anything last night?" 

"Why, of course, I had a wonderful dream." 

"Tell it to me," Listnitsky would order 
curtly, rolling himself a cigarette. 

And Venyamin would relate it. If the dream 
happened to be uninteresting or frightening, 
Listnitsky would get angry. 

"You dolt! A fool is visited by foolish 

Venyamin started to invent gay and amusing 
dreams. But it was difficult for him. He started 
to invent his gay dreams several days in ad- 
vance, sitting on his trunk and shuffling the 
cards-puffy and oily as the cheeks of the 
player. His eyes staring fixedly, he exerted his 
brain until he reached a point where he stopped 
having proper dreams altogether. When 
he woke in the morning, he would strain his 
memory, trying to recall what he had dreamed, 
but darkness lay behind him, black darkness. 

23—1933 353 

He had dreamed nothing, not even seen a face 
in his sleep. 

Venyamin's store of artless inventions was 
soon exhausted, and the master grew angry 
when he caught him repeating himself. 

"You told me that dream about a horse last 
Thursday, damn you!" 

"I dreamed it again, Nikolai Alexeyevich! 
Honest to God, I dreamed it again!" Venyamin 
lied calmly. 

In December Grigory was summoned to the 
district administration at Vyeshenskaya. There 
he was given a hundred rubles to buy a horse, 
and was instructed to report two days after 
Christmas at the village of Mankovo for the 
army draft. 

He returned to Yagodnoye in considerable 
agitation. Christmas was approaching, and he 
had nothing ready. With the money he had re- 
ceived from the authorities plus his own sav- 
ings he bought a horse for a hundred and forty 
rubles. He took Sashka with him and they pur- 
chased a presentable enough animal, a six- 
year-old bay with one hidden blemish. Old 
Sashka combed his beard with his fingers and 

"You won't get one cheaper, and the author- 
ities won't see the flaw! They haven't got 
enough gumption!" 


Grigory rode the horse back to Yagodnoye, 
putting it through its paces. 

A week before Christmas Pantelei arrived 
unexpectedly at Yagodnoye. He did not drive 
into the yard, but tied up his horse and basket 
sledge at the gate, and limped towards the serv- 
ants' quarters, rubbing the icicles off his 
beard that hung like a black log over the col- 
lar of his coat. Grigory happened to be look- 
ing out of the window and saw his father ap- 

"Well I'm ... Father!" 

For some reason Aksinya ran to the cradle 
and wrapped up the child. Pantelei stumped 
into the room, bringing a breath of cold air 
with him. He removed his fur cap and crossed 
himself facing the icon, then gazed slowly 
around the room. 

"Good health!" 

"Good-morning, Father!" Grigory replied, 
rising from the bench and striding to the cen- 
tre of the room, ' 

Pantelei offered Grigory an icy hand, and sat 
down on the edge of the bench, wrapping his 
sheepskin around him. He scarcely glanced at 
Aksinya, who stood very still by the cradle. 

"Getting ready for your service?" 

"Of course." 

2:^^^ 355 

Pantelei was silent, staring long and ques- 
tioningly at Grigory. 

"Take your things off. Father, you must be 

"It doesn't matter." 

"We'll get the samovar going." 

"Thank you." The old man scraped an old 
spot of mud off his coat with his finger-nail, 
and added: "I've brought your kit; two coats, 
a saddle, and trousers. You'll find them all 
there in the sledge." 

Grigory went out and removed the two sacks 
of equipment from the sledge. When he re- 
turned his father rose from the bench. 

"When are you going off?" he asked his son. 

"The day after Christmas. You aren't going 
already, are you. Father?" 

"I want to get back early." 

He took leave of Grigory, and still avoiding 
Aksinya's eyes, went towards the door. As he 
lifted the latch he turned his eyes in the direc- 
tion of the cradle, and said: 

"Your mother sends her greetings. She's in 
bed with trouble in her legs." After a momen- 
tary pause, he said heavily: "I shall ride with 
you to Mankovo. Be ready when I come." 

He went out thrusting his hands into warm, 
knitted gloves. Aksinya, pale with the humilia- 
tion she had suffered, said nothing. Grigory 


paced the room, glancing sideways at Aksinya 
as he passed her, and constantly stepping on a 
creaking board. 

On Christmas Day Grigory drove his master 
to Vyeshenskaya. Listnitsky attended mass, 
had breakfast with his cousin, a local land- 
owner, and then ordered Grigory to get the 
sleigh ready for the return journey. Grigory had 
not finished his bowl of rich pork and cabbage 
soup, but he rose at once, went to the stable, 
and harnessed the dapple-grey trotting-horse 
to the light sleigh. 

The wind was sifting the fine, tingling snow- 
flakes; a silvery froth hissed through the yard; 
a soft fringe of hoar-frost hung from the trees 
beyond the fence. The wind shook it down, and 
as it fell and scattered, it reflected a rainbow- 
rich variety of colours from the sun. On the 
roof close to the smoking chimney the chilly 
jackdaws' were chattering loudly. Startled by 
the sound of footsteps, they flew off, circled 
round the house like dove-coloured snow- 
flakes, then flew to the east, to the church 
clearly outlined against the violet morning sky. 

"Tell the master we're ready," Grigory 
shouted to the maid that came to the steps of 
the house. 

Listnitsky came out and climbed into the 
sleigh, his whiskers buried in the collar of his 


raccoon coat. Grigory wrapped up his legs and 
adjusted the velvet-lined wolf-skin. 

"Warm him up," Listnitsky said glancing at 
the horse. 

Leaning back in his seat, his hands tense on 
the quivering reins, Grigory watched the ruts, 
anxiously remembering the far from feeble 
box on the ears the master had given him for 
handling the sleigh awkwardly one day early 
in winter. As they drove down to the Don Gri- 
gory released his grip on the reins and rubbed 
his wind-seared cheeks with his glove. 

They arrived at Yagodnoye within two 
hours. Listnitsky had been silent throughout 
the drive, occasionally tapping Grigory on the 
back with his finger as a signal to stop while 
he rolled and lit a cigarette. Only as they were 
descending the hill to the house did he ask: 

"Early tomorrow morning?" 

Grigory turned sideways in his 'seat, and 
dragged his frozen lips apart with difficulty. 
His tongue, stiff with cold, seemed to swell and 
stick to the back of his teeth. 

"Yes," he managed to reply. 

"Got all your money?" 


"Don't worry about your wife, she'll be all 
right with us. Be a good soldier,- your grand- 
father was a fine Cossack, And mind," List- 


nitsky's voice grew muffled as he hid his face 
from the wind in the collar of his coat, "and 
mind you conduct yourself in a manner worthy 
of ,your grandfather and father. Your father 
received the first prize for trick riding at the 
Imperial Review, didn't he?" 


"Well then!" the old man ended with a stern 
note in his voice, as though admonishing Gri- 
gory, and buried his face once more in his fur 

At the yard Grigory handed over the horse 
to Sashka, and turned to go to the servants' 

"Your father's arrived," Sashka shouted after 

Grigory found Pantelei sitting at the table, 
eating meat jelly. "Tight!" Grigory decided, 
glancing at his father's flushed face. 

"So you're back, soldier?" 

"I'm frozen," Grigory answered, clapping 
his hands together. Turning to Aksinya, he add- 
ed: "Untie my hood, my fingers are too stiff." 

"You must have had the wind against you," 
his father grunted, chewing steadily. 

This time his father was in a kindlier mood, 
and ordered Aksinya about as if he were in his 
own home. "Don't be so stingy with the bread, 
cut some more," he told her. 


When he had finished he rose from the table 
and went towards the door to have a smoke in 
the yard. As he passed the cradle he rocked it 
once or twice, pretending that the action was 
accidental, and asked: "A Cossack?" 

"A girl," Aksinya replied for Grigory; and 
catching the expression of dissatisfaction that 
passed over the old man's face, she hurriedly 
added: "She's the image of Grisha!" 

Pantelei attentively examined the dark little 
head sticking out of the clothes, and declared, 
not without a touch of pride: "She's of our 
blood. . . ! Well, I never!" 

"How did you come. Father?" Grigory 

"With the mare and Pyotr's horse." 
"You need only have used one, and we could 
have harnessed mine for the journey to Man- 

"Let him go light. He's not a bad horse, you 

They were both troubled by the same 
thought, but they talked of various trivial mat- 
ters. Aksinya took no part in the conversation, 
and sat on the bed. Her full breasts swelled 
tightly under her blouse. She had grown notice- 
ably stouter since the birth of the child, and 
had a new, confidently happy air. 

It was late when they went to bed. As she 


nestled close at Grigory's side, Aksinya mois- 
tened his shirt with her tears and the over- 
abundant milk seeping from her breasts. 

"I shall pine away. What shall I do without 

"You'll be all right," Grigory murmured. 

"The long nights . . . the child awake. . . . 
Just think, Grisha! Four years!" 

"In the old days service lasted twenty-five 
years, they say." 

"What do I care about the old days?" 

"Come now, enough of that!" 

"Curse your army service, I say." 

"I shall come home on furlough." 

"On furlough!" Aksinya moaned, sobbing 
and wiping her nose on her shift. "A lot of 
water will go down the Don before then." 

"Not so much whimpering! You're like rain 
in autumn, always drizzling." 

"You should be in my shoes." 

Grigory fell asleep a little before dawn. Ak- 
sinya got up and fed the child, then lay down 
again. Leaning on her elbows she gazed un- 
blinkingly into Grigory's face, and took a long 
farewell of him. She recalled the night when 
she had tried to persuade him to go away with 
her to the Kuban; it had been the same as 
now, except that there had been a moon flood- 
ing the yard outside the window with its white 


light. The same, and Grigory was still the 
same, yet not the same. Behind them both lay 
a long track trodden out by the passing days. 

He turned over, muttered something about 
Olshansky village, and then was silent. Aksi- 
nya tried to sleep, but her thoughts drove all 
sleep away, like wind scattering a haycock. 
Until daybreak she lay thinking over his dis- 
connected phrase, seeking its meaning. Pantelei 
awoke as soon as daylight began to foam on 
the frosty windows. 

"Grigory, get up, it's getting light." 

Kneeling on the bed, Aksinya pulled on her 
skirt and with a sigh started looking for the 

By the time they had breakfasted and 
packed, dawn had fully come. The black stakes 
of the fence were clearly outlined and the 
stable roof loomed darkly against the misty 
lilac of the sky. Pantelei went to harness his 
horses while Grigory tore himself away from 
Aksinya's desperately passionate kisses and 
went to say good-bye to Sashka and the other 

Wrapping the child up warmly, Aksinya 
took her out with her to take a last farewell. 
Grigory lightly touched his daughter's damp 
little forehead with his lips, and went to his 


"Come in the sledge," his father called, as 
he touched up his horses. 

"No, I'll ride my horse." 

With deliberate slowness Grigory fastened 
the saddle-girths, mounted his horse, and 
gathered the reins in his hand. Aksinya 
touched the stirrup with her hand and kept re- 

"Grisha, wait. . . . There's something I 
wanted to say. . . ." And puckering her brow, 
trembling and bewildered, she tried to remem- 
ber what it was. 

"Well, good-bye. . . . Look after the child. . . . 
I must be off; see how far Father's got already." 

"Wait, dearest!" With her left hand Aksinya 
seized the icy iron stirrup; her right arm 
pressed the baby to her breast; and she had no 
free hand with which to wipe away the tears 
streaming from her wide staring eyes. 

Venyamin came to the steps of the house. 

"Grigory, the master wants you!" 

Grigory cursed, waved his whip, and dashed 
out of the yard. Aksinya ran after him, stum- 
bling in the drifted snow. 

He overtook his father at the top of the hill. 
With an effort of will, he turned and looked 
back. Aksinya was standing at the gate, the 
child still pressed to her breast, the ends of 
her crimson shawl fluttering in the wind. 


He rode his horse alongside his father's 
sledge. After a few moments the old man 
turned his back to his horses and asked: 

"So you're not thinking of living with your 

"That old story again? We've had that out 
already. . . ." 

"So you're not." 

"No, I'm not!" 

"You haven't heard that she laid hands on 

"Yes, I've heard. I happened to meet a man 
from the village." 

"And in the sight of God?" 

"Why, Father, after all ... it's no use crying 
over spilt milk." 

"Don't use that devil's talk to me. What I'm 
saying to you, I'm saying for your own good," 
Pantelei flared up. 

"I've a child back there. What's the use of 
talking? You can't push the other on to me 
now. . . ." 

"Are you sure you're not rearing another 
man's child?" 

Grigory turned pale; his father had touched 
a sore spot. Ever since the child was born he 
had tormentedly nursed the suspicion in his 
mind, while concealing it from Aksinya and 
from himself. At night, when Aksinya was 


asleep, he had more than once gone to 
the cradle and stared down at the child, 
seeking his own features in its swarthily 
rosy face, and had turned back to bed as 
uncertain as before. Stepan was dark-chest- 
nut, almost as dark as he, and how was 
he to know whose blood flowed in the child's 
veins? At times he thought the child resembled 
him, at other times she was painfully like Ste- 
pan. Grigory had no feeling for her, except per- 
haps hostility as he recalled the moments he 
had lived through when he had driven Aksinya 
back from the steppes in the throes of child- 
birth. Once when Aksinya was busy in the 
kitchen, he had had to change the child's wet 
napkin. As he did so he had felt a sharp, burn- 
ing emotion. He had bent stealthily over the 
cradle and pressed the baby's pink stiff toe be- 
tween his teeth. 

His father probed mercilessly at the wound, 
and Grigory, his palm resting on the saddle- 
bow, numbly replied: 

"Whoever it belongs to, I won't leave the 

Pantelei waved his whip at the horses with- 
out turning round: 

"Natalya's spoilt her good looks. She carries 
her head on one side like a paralytic. It seems 
she cut a tendon." He lapsed into silence. 


The runners creaked as they cut through the 
snow; the hoofs of Grigory's horse clicked as 
they knocked together. 

"And how is she now?" Grigory asked, 
studiously picking a burr out of his horse's 

"She got over it somehow or other. She was 
laid up seven months. On Trinity Sunday she 
was all but gone. Father Pankraty came to say 
prayers. And then she began to pick up. She'd 
tried to stab herself with a scythe but her hand 
shook and she just missed her heart. It would 
have been the end of her otherwise. . . ." 

"Quicker down the hill!" Grigory said, 
standing in his stirrups and using his whip; 
the horse leaped forward, sending a shower of 
snow from its hoofs over the sledge, and broke 
into a trot. 

"We're taking Natalya in," Pantelei shouted, 
coming up with him. "The woman doesn't 
want to live with her own folk. I saw her the 
other day and told her to come to us." 

Grigory made no reply. They drove as far as 
the first village without exchanging a word, 
and his father made no further reference to 
the subject. 

That day they covered seventy versts. They 
arrived at Mankovo the following evening as 


dusk was falling, and spent the night in the 
quarters allotted to the Vyeshenskaya re- 

Next morning the district ataman took the 
Vyeshenskaya recruits before the medical com- 
mission. Grigory fell in with the other lads 
from his own village. In the morning Mitka 
Korshunov, riding a tall bay horse equipped 
v;ith a new and gaily-ornamented saddle and 
harness, had passed Grigory standing at the 
door of his quarters, but had gone by without 
a word of greeting. 

The men undressed in turn in the cold room 
of the local civil administration. Military 
clerks bustled around, and the adjutant to the 
provincial ataman hurried past in short patent- 
leather boots. From an inner room came the 
sound of the doctors' orders, and snatches of 


"Pavel Ivanovich, pass me an indelible pen- 
cil," croaked a drink-sodden voice near the 

"Chest measurement. ..." 

"Yes, obviously hereditary. . . ." 

"Put down syphilis." 

"Take your hand away. You're not a girl." 

"Fine physique." 


". . . Infects the whole village. Special meas- 
ures must be taken. I have already reported 
the matter to His Excellency." 

"Pavel Ivanovich, look at this fellow's phy- 


Grigory got undressed beside a tall red- 
haired lad from another village. A clerk came 
out and, straightening his shoulders so that 
his tunic creased at the back, curtly called Gri- 
gory and the other lad into the examination 

"Hurry up!" gasped the red-head, blushing 
and pulling off a sock. 

Grigory went in, his back all goose-flesh 
with the cold. His swarthy body was the colour 
of oak. He felt embarrassed as he glanced 
down at his hairy legs. In the corner a square- 
limbed lad was standing naked on the scales. 
Someone, evidently the doctor's assistant, 
flicked the weights to and fro, called out a 
figure and told him to get down. 

The humiliating procedure of the medical 
examination irritated Grigory. A grey-haired 
doctor in a white coat sounded him with the 
aid of a stethoscope. A younger doctor turned 
up his eyelids and looked at his tongue. Behind 
him a third in horn-rimmed spectacles bustled 
about, rubbing his hands. 


"On the scales!" an officer ordered. 

Grigory stepped on to the cold platform, 

"Five poods ... six and a half pounds." 

"Wha-a-at! He's not particulcirly tall, either," 
the grey-haired doctor exclaimed, turning Gri- 
gory round by the arm. 

"Astonishing!" the younger man coughed. 

"How much?" an officer sitting at the table 
asked in surprise. 

"Five poods, six and a half pounds," the 
grey-haired doctor replied. 

"How about the Lifeguards for him?" the 
district military commissary asked, bending a 
black sleek head towards his neighbour at the 

"He has the face of a brigand. . . . Very sav- 
age-looking. . . ." 

"Hey, turn round! What's that on your 
back?" an officer wearing colonel's epaulettes 
shouted, impatiently tapping his finger on the 
table. The grey-haired doctor mumbled some- 
thing and Grigory, trying to restrain the 
trembling of his body, turned his back to the 
table and replied: 

"I caught cold in the spring. It's a boil." 
By the end of the examination the officers at 
the table had decided that Grigory would have 
to be drafted into an ordinary regiment. 

24—1933 369 

"The Twelfth Regiment, Melekhov. D'yoii 
hear?" he was told. And as he went towards 
the door he heard a shocked whispering: 

"It's impossible. Just imagine it, if the em- 
peror saw a face like that? His eyes alone. . . /' 

"He's a cross-breed. From the East, no 

"And his body isn't clean. Those boils. . . ." 

Other men from his village who were wait- 
ing their turn crowded round Grigory: 

"How did it go, Grisha?" 

"What regiment?" 

"The Lifeguards, eh?" 

"How much did you go on the scales?" 

Hopping on one foot while he pushed his 
legs into his trousers, Grigory snapped: "Oh, 
go to hell! What regiment? The Twelfth." 

"Korshunov, Dmitry; Kargin, Ivan," shouted 
the clerk, poking his head round the door. 

Buttoning up his coat as he went, Grigory 
ran down the steps. 

The warm wind breathed of thaw; the road 
was bare of snow in places, and steaming. 
Clucking hens fluttered across the street, geese 
were splashing in a puddle; their feet looked 
orange-pink in the water, like frost-nipped 
autumn leaves. 

The examination of the horses took place the 
following day. They were all drawn up on the 


square in a long line against the church wall. 
Officers bustled to and fro; a veterinary sur- 
geon and his assistant passed down the long 
line of animals. The Vyeshenskaya ataman 
went running from the scales to the table in 
the middle of the square, where the results of 
the examination were being recorded. A milita- 
ry police officer went by, deep in conversation 
with a young captain. 

When his turn came, Grigory led his horse 
to the scales. The surgeon and his assistant 
measured every part of the animal's body, then 
weighed it. Before it could be led from the 
platform the surgeon had deftly taken it by the 
upper lip, looked at its teeth, felt its chest 
muscles and, running his strong fingers over 
its body, like a spider, reached its legs. He felt 
the knee joints, tapped the tendons, squeezed 
the bone above the fetlocks. When he had fin- 
ished his examination he passed on, his white 
apron flapping in the wind and scattering the 
scent of carbolic acid. 

Grigory's horse was rejected. Sashka's hopes 
had proved unjustified, and the experienced 
surgeon had been shrewd enough to discover 
the secret blemish of which the old man had 
spoken. Grigory at once held an agitated con- 
sultation with his father, and before half an 
hour had elapsed he led Pyotr's horse on to 

24* 371 

the scales. The surgeon passed it almost with- 
out examination, 

Grigory led the horse a little way off, found 
a comparatively dry spot, and spread out his 
saddle-cloth on the ground. His father held his 
horse, talking to another old man who was also 
seeing off his son. Past them strode a tall, grey- 
haired general in a light-grey cloak and a silver 
astrakhan cap, followed by a group of officers. 

"That's the provincial ataman," Pantelei 
whispered, nudging Grigory from behind. 

"Looks like a general," 

"Major-General Makeyev. He's a strict 

A crowd of officers from various regiments 
and batteries followed in the wake of the ata- 
man. An artillery major, broad in the hips and 
shoulders, was talking loudly to a tall hand- 
some Guards officer of the Ataman's Regi- 

", , . What the devil ! Such an amazing con- 
trast, you know! An Estonian village, the 
majority of the people blonde, and this girl 
such a contrast! And she wasn't the only one! 
We had all sorts of guesses about it, and then 
we learned that twenty years ago. . , ," The of- 
ficers walked past the spot where Grigory was 
arranging his equipment on his saddle-cloth 
and the wind brought him the final words amid 


a burst of laughter from the officers: "...Ap- 
parently a squadron of your Guards used to be 
stationed in the village." 

A clerk ran past buttoning his jacket with 
trembling ink-stained fingers and the district 
assistant chief of police bellowed after him: 

"I told you three copies. Confound you!" 

Grigory stared curiously at the unfamiliar 
faces of the officers and officials. An adjutant 
fixed a bored gaze on him, and turned away 
as he met Grigory's attentive eyes. An old cap- 
tain went by almost at a run, looking agitated 
by something and biting his upper lip with his 
yellow teeth. Grigory noticed a vein beating 
over the captain's ginger eyebrow. 

On his new saddle-cloth Grigory had set 
out his saddle, with its green pommel and sad- 
dle-bags at back and front; two army coats, 
two pairs of trousers, a tunic, two pairs of top- 
boots, a pound and a half of biscuit, a tin of 
corned beef, groats, and other food in the reg- 
ulation quantities. In the open saddle-bags 
were four horseshoes, shoe-nails wrapped in a 
greasy rag, a soldier's hussif with a couple of 
needles and thread, and towels. 

He gave a last glance over his accoutre- 
ments, and squatted down to rub some mud off 
the ends of the packstrings with his sleeve. 
From the end of the square the army com- 


mission slowly passed along the rows of Cos- 
sacks drawn up behind their saddle-cloths. The 
officers and the ataman examined the equip- 
ment closely, holding up the edges of their 
light-coloured greatcoats as they stooped to 
rummage in the saddle-bags, turned out the 
contents of the hussifs, and weighed the bags 
of biscuits in their hands, 

"Look at that tall one over there, lads," said 
a young Cossack standing next to Grigory, 
pointing towards the provincial chief of mili- 
tary police, "scratching like a dog after a pole- 

"Just look at the devil. Turning the bag in- 
side out!" 

"Something wrong there, or he wouldn't do 

"Surely he isn't counting the shoe-nails." 

"Just like a dog!" 

The talk gradually died away as the com- 
mission approached. Only a few more men and 
it would be Grigory's turn. The provincial ata- 
man was carrying a glove in his left hand and 
swinging his right, keeping the elbow straight. 
Grigory drew himself up. Behind him his 
father coughed. The wind carried the smell of 
horse piss and melted snow over the square. 
The sun looked unhappy, as though after a 
drinking bout. 


The group of officers halted by the man 
next to Grigory, then came on to him one by 

"Your surname. Christian name?" 
"Melekhov, Grigory." 

The police officer picked up the greatcoat by 
its belt, smelled the lining, and hurriedly 
counted the fastenings; another officer, wear- 
ing a cornet's epaulettes, felt the good cloth of 
the trousers between his fingers. A third stopped 
and rummaged in the saddle-bags, stoop- 
ing so low that the wind threw the skirts of his 
greatcoat on to his back. With his thumb and 
forefinger the police officer cautiously poked 
at the rag containing shoe-nails as though 
afraid it might be hot, and counted the nails in 
a whisper. 

"Why are there only twenty-three nails? 
What is this?" he angrily pulled at the corner 
of the rag. 

"Not at all. Your Honour. Twenty-four." 
"What, am I blind?" 

Grigory hastily turned back a folded corner, 
revealing the twenty-fourth nail. As he did so 
his rough swarthy fingers lightly touched the 
officer's sugar-white hand. The officer snatched 
his hand away as though struck, rubbed it on 
the edge of his greatcoat, frowning fastidi- 
ously, and drew on his glove. 


Grigory noticed his action and straightened 
up with a bitter smile. Their eyes met, and the 
officer flushed and raised his voice, 

"What's all this, what's all this, Cossack? 
Why aren't your packstrings in order? Why 
aren't your snaffles right? And what does this 
mean? Are you a Cossack or a muzhik? 
Where's your father?" 

Pantelei pulled on the horse's rein and 
stepped forward a pace, clicking his lame leg. 

"Don't you know the Cossack regulations?" 
the officer, who was ill-tempered after losing 
at cards that morning, poured out his wrath 
upon him. 

The provincial ataman came up, and the of- 
ficer subsided. The ataman thrust the toe of his 
boot into the padding of the saddle, hiccupped 
and passed on to the next man. The draft of- 
ficer of the regiment to which Grigory had 
been drafted politely turned out all his belong- 
ings down to the contents of the hussif, and 
passed on last of all, walking backwards to 
shield a match from the wind as he lit a ciga- 

A day later a train of red railway trucks 
loaded with horses, Cossacks and forage left 
for Voronezh. In one of them stood Grigory. 
Past the open door crawled an unfamiliar, flat 
landscape; a blue and tender thread of forest 


whirled by in the distance. Behind him the 
horses were munching hay and stepping from 
hoof to hoof as they felt the unsteady floor be- 
neath them. The wagon smelled of wormwood, 
horses' sweat, and the spring thaw; a distant 
thread of forest lurked on the horizon, blue, 
pensive, and as inaccessible as the faintly-shin- 
ing evening-star. 



t was on a warm and 
cheerful spring day in 
March, 1914 that Nata- 
lya returned to her father-in-law's house. Pan- 
telei was mending the broken wattle fence with 
fluffy dove-coloured twigs. The silvery icicles 
hanging from the roofs were dripping, and the 
traces of former runnels showed like black tar 
stains under the eaves. A ruddier, warmer sun 
caressed the melting hills, and the earth was 
swelling; the early grass looked like green 
malachite on the bare chalky headlands that 
bulged from the hill beyond the Don. 

Natalya, thinner and much changed, ap- 
proached her father-in-law from behind and 
bowed her scarred, slightly crooked neck: 

"Good health. Father!" 

"Natalyushka! Welcome, my dear, wel- 


come!" Pantelei exclaimed fussing over her. 
The twigs dropped out of his hand. "Why 
haven't you been to see us? Come in. Mother 
will be right glad to see you." 

"Father, I've come. . . ." Natalya stretched out 
her hand uncertainly, and turned away. "If you 
don't drive me away, I'd like to stay with you 
always," she added. 

"And why shouldn't you. my dear? Are you 
a ,stranger to us? Look, Grigory has written 
about you in his letter. He's told us to ask 
about you." 

They went into the kitchen. Pantelei limped 
about in joyful agitation. Ilyinichna wept as 
she embraced Natalya. 

"You want a child," she whispered. "That 
would win him. Sit down. I'll get you some 
pancakes, shall I?" 

Dunya, flushed and smiling, came running 
into the kitchen and embraced Natalya round 
the knees. "You shameless thing! You forgot 
all about us!" she reproached her. 

"Now then, you madcap!" her father shouted 
at her with feigned severity. 

"How you've grown!" Natalya murmured, 
pulling Dunya's arms apart and looking into 
her eyes. 

They all talked together, interrupting one 
another. Ilyinichna, supporting her cheek on 


her palm, grieved as she looked at Natalya, so 
changed from what she had been. 

"You've come for good?" Dunya asked, 
clasping Natalya's hands. 

"Who knows . . .?" 

"Why, where else should my own daughter- 
in-law live? You'll stay with us," Ilyinichna 
decided, as she pushed a platter of pancakes 
across the table. 

Natalya had come to her husband's parents 
only after long vacillation. At first her father 
would not let her go. He shouted at her in in- 
dignation when she suggested it, and at- 
tempted to persuade her against such a step. 
But it was difficult for her to look her own 
people in the face; since her attempted suicide 
she felt that with her own family she was al- 
most a stranger. For his part, after he had seen 
Grigory off to the army Pantelei was continu- 
ally wheedling her to come, for he was deter- 
mined to have her back and to reconcile Gri- 
gory to her. 

From that day in March Natalya lived with 
the Melekhovs. Pyotr was friendly and broth- 
erly; Darya gave little outward sign of her dis- 
satisfaction, but her occasional sidelong 
glances were more than compensated by Du- 
nya's attachment and the parental attitude of 
the old people. 


The very day after Nataiya came to ttiem 
Pantelei ordered Dunya to write a letter to 

Greetings, our own son, Grigory Panteleye- 
vich! We send you a deep bow, and horn all 
my fatherly heart, with your mother Vasilisa 
llyinichna, a parental blessing. Your brother 
Pyotr Panteleyevich and his wife Darya Mat- 
veyeuna greet you and wish you health and 
well-being; also your sister Dunya and all at 
home greet you. We received your letter, sent 
in February, the fifth day, and heartily thank 
you for it. And as you wrote that the horse is 
knocking his legs smear him with some lard, 
you know how, and don't shoe his hind hoofs 
so long as there is no slipperiness or bare ice 
about. Your wife Nataiya Mironovna is living 
with us and is well and comfortable. Your 
mother sends you some dried cherries and a 
pair of woollen socks, and some bacon and 
other things. We are all alive and well, but 
Darya's baby has died. The other day Pyotr 
and I roofed the shed, and he orders you to 
look after the horse and keep it well. The cows 
have calved, the old mare seems to be in foal, 
we put a stallion from the district stables to 
her. We are glad to hear about your service 
and that your officers are pleased with you. 


§erue as you should. Service for the Tsar will 
not be in vain. And Natalya will live with us 
now, and you think that over. And one other 
trouble, just before Lent a wolf killed three 
sheep. Now, keep well, and in Cod's keeping. 
Don't forget your wife, that is my order to 
you. She is a good woman and your legal wife. 
Don't break the furrow, and listen to your 

Your father. Senior Sergeant 

Pantelei Melekhov. 

Grigory's regiment was stationed at a little 
place called Radzivillovo some four versts 
from the Russo-Austrian frontier. He rarely 
wrote home. To the letter informing him that 
Natalya was living with his father he wrote 
a cautiously worded reply, and asked his 
father to greet her in his name. All his letters 
were non-com.mittal and obscure in their mean- 
ing. Pantelei made Dunya or Pyotr read them 
to him several times, pondering over the 
thought concealed between the lines. Just be- 
fore Easter he wrote and asked Grigory defi- 
nitely whether on his return from the army he 
would live with his wife or with Aksinya as 

Grigory delayed his reply. Only after Trin- 
ity Sunday did they receive a brief letter from 


him. Dunya read it quickly, swallowing the 
ends of her words, and Pantelei had difficulty 
in grasping the essential thought among the 
numerous greetings and inquiries. At the end 
of the letter Grigory dealt with the question of 
Natalya : 

You asked me to say whether I shall live 
with Natalya or not, but I tell you. Father, once 
a thing's been cut oft, you can't stick it on 
again. And how shall I make it up with Nata- 
lya, when you know yourseli that I have a 
child. And 1 can't promise anything, it is pain- 
ful for me to talk about it. The other day a fel- 
low was caught smuggling goods across the 
frontier and we happened to see him. He said 
there would be war with the Austrians soon, 
that their tsar has come to the frontier to see 
where to begin the war from and which land to 
grab tor himself. If war begins maybe I shan't 
be left alive, and nothing pan be settled be- 

Natalya worked for her foster-parents and 
lived in continual hope of her husband's re- 
turn. She never wrote to Grigory, but nobody 
in the family yearned with more pain and de- 
sire to receive a letter from him. 

Life in the village continued in its inviolable 
order, Cossacks who had served their term in 


the army returned home, on workdays dull 
labour imperceptibly consumed the time, on 
Sunday mornings the village poured in family 
droves into the church: the Cossacks in tunics 
and holiday trousers, the women in long, col- 
oured skirts that swept the dust, and embroi- 
dered blouses with puff sleeves. 

In the square stood empty wagons, their 
shafts high in the air, horses whinnied and all 
kinds of people went to and fro; by the fireshed 
the Bulgar settlers traded in vegetables set out 
in long rows; behind them the children ran 
about in bands and stared at the unharnessed 
camels superciliously surveying the market 
square. Everywhere were crowds of men wear- 
ing red-banded caps, and women in bright 
kerchiefs. The camels, their eyes glazed with a 
torpid green, chewed the cud as they rested 
from their constant toil on the water-wheels. 

In the evening the streets groaned with the 
tramp of feet, with song, and dancing to the 
accordions; and only late at night did the 
last voices die away on the outskirts of the 

Natalya, who never went to the evening 
gatherings, sat listening gladly to Dunya's 
artless stories. Imperceptibly Dunya was grow- 
ing into a shapely and, in her way, good-look- 
ing girl. She matured early, like an early apple. 


That year her elder girl-friends forgot that 
they had reached adolescence before her 
and took her into their circle. Dunya was like 
her father, dark and sturdy. She was fifteen 
now, her figure still girlish and angular. She 
was an artless, almost pitiful mixture of child- 
hood and blossoming youth; her small breasts 
grew and pressed noticeably against Her 
blouse; and her black eyes in their long, rather 
slanting sockets, still sparkled bashfully and 
mischievously. She would come back after an 
evening out and tell only Natalya her innocent 

"Natalya, I want to tell you something. . . ." 

"Well, tell on!" 

"Yesterday Misha Koshevoi sat the whole 
evening with me on the stump by the village 

"Why are you blushing?" 

"Oh, I'm not!" 

"Look in the glass; you're all one great 

"Well, you made me." 

"All right, go on, I won't say a thing." 

Dunya rubbed her burning cheeks with her 
brown palms, pressed her fingers to her tem- 
ples, and her laughter tinkled out youthfully 
and without cause. 

"He said I was like a little azure flower." 

25—1933 385 

"Well, go on!" Natalya encouraged her, re- 
joicing in another's joy, forgetting her own 
past and downtrodden happiness. 

"And I said: 'Don't tell lies, Misha!' And he 
swore it was true." 

Shaking her head, Dunya sent her laughter 
pealing through the room. The black, heavy 
plaits of her hair slipped like lizards over her 
shoulders and back. 

"What else did he say?" 

"He asked me to give him my hanky for a 

"And did you?" 

"No. I said I wouldn't. 'Go and ask your 
woman,' I told him. He's been seen with Yero- 
feyev's daughter-in-law, and she's a bad wom- 
an, she plays about with the men." 

"You'd better keep away from him." 

"I'm going to!" Dunya continued her story, 
trying to hide the smile that came to her lips. 
"And then, as the three of us, two other girls 
and me, were coming home, drunken old 
Grandpa Mikhei came after us. 'Kiss me, my 
dears, and I'll pay you two kopecks apiece,' he 
shouted. And Nyura hit him on the face with 
a twig and we ran away." 

The summer was dry. By the village the Don 
grew shallow, and where the surging current 
had run swiftly a ford was made, and bullocks 


could cross to the other bank without wetting 
their backs. At night a sultry stuffiness flowed 
down into the village from the range of hills, 
and the wind filled the air with the spicy scent 
of scorched grass. The dry growth of the 
steppe was afire, and a sickly-smelling haze 
hung over the Don-side slopes. At night the 
clouds deepened over the river and ominous 
peals of thunder were heard; but no rain came 
to refresh the pardhed earth, although the 
lightning rent the sky into jagged, livid frag- 

Night after night an owl screeched from the 
belfry. The cries surged terrifyingly over the 
village, and the owl flew from the belfry to the 
cemetery and moaned over the brownish grassy 
mounds of the graves. 

"There's trouble brewing," the old men proph- 
esied, as they listened to the owl screeching 
from the cemetery. 

"There's war coming. An owl called just like 
that before the Turkish campaign." 

"Perhaps there will be cholera again." 

"Expect no good when it flies from the 
church to the dead." 

For two nights Martin Shamil, who lived 
close to the cemetery, lay in wait by the ceme- 
tery fence for the accursed owl, but the invis- 
ible, mysterious bird flew noiselessly over 

25* 387 

him, alighted on a cross at the other end of 
the cemetery, and sent its alarming cries over 
the sleepy village. Martin swore indecently, 
shot at the black, hanging belly of a cloud, 
and went home. On his return his wife, a 
timorous, ailing woman as fertile as a doe rab- 
bit, greated him with reproaches. 

"You're a fool, a hopeless fool!" she de- 
clared. "The bird doesn't interfere with you, 
does it? What if God should punish you? Here 
I am in my last month and suppose I don't 
give birth because of you." 

"Shut up, woman!" Martin ordered her. 
"You'll be all right, never fear! What's that 
bird doing here, giving us all the cold 
shivers? It's calling down woe on us, the dev- 
il! If war breaks out they'll take me off, and 
look at the litter you've given me!" He waved 
at the corner where the children were sleeping. 
Talking with the old men in the market 
place, Pantelei solemnly announced: 

"Our Grigory \mtes that the Austrian tsar 
has come to the frontier, and has given orders 
to collect all his troops in one place and to 
march on Moscow and Petersburg." 

The old men remembered past wars, and 
shared their apprehensions with one another. 
"But there won't be any war," one objected. 
"Look at the harvest." 


"The harvest has nothing to do with it. It's 
the students giving trouble, I expect." 

"In any case we shall be the last to hear of 
it. But who will the war be with?" 

"With the Turks, about the sea. They can't 
come to an agreement on how to divide the 

"Is it so difficult? Let them divide it into 
two strips, like we do the meadowland." 

The talk turned to jest, and the old men 
went about their business. 

The early meadow hay was waiting to be 
mown. The fading grass beyond the Don, 
which was not a patch on the grass of the 
steppe, was sickly and scentless. It was the 
same earth, yet the grass drank in different 
juices. In the steppe there was black soil, so 
heavy and firm that the herd left no traces 
where they passed over it. The grass there was 
strong and fragrant. But along the Don banks 
the soil was damp and rotten, growing a poor 
and scrubby grass which even the cattle would 
not always look at. 

Haymaking was about to begin when an 
event occurred which shook the village from 
one end to the other. The district chief of po- 
lice arrived with an inspector and a little black- 
toothed officer in a uniform never seen before 
in the village. They sent for the ataman, col- 


lected witnesses, and then went straight to 
cross-eyed Lukeshka's house. They walked 
along the path on the sunlit side of the street, 
the village ataman running ahead like a 
cockerel. The inspector, his dusty boots stamp- 
ing on the blobs of sunlight, questioned him: 

"Is Stockman at home?" 

"Yes, Your Honour." 

"What does he do for a living?" 

"He's just a craftsman. Works with his 
plane. . . ." 

"You haven't noticed anything suspicious 
about him?" 

"Not at all." 

As the police chief walked along, hat in 
hand, he squeezed a pimple on the bridge of his 
nose and panted in his thick uniform. The little 
officer picked his black teeth with a straw and 
puckered his red-rimmed eyes. 

"Does he ever have visitors?" the inspector 
asked, pulling the ataman back. 

"Yes, they play cards sometimes." 


"Chiefly labourers from the mill." 

"Who exactly?" 

"The engineman, the scalesman, the roller- 
man David, and sometimes some of our Cos- 

The inspector halted and waited for the of- 


ficer, who had lagged behind. He said some- 
thing to him, twisting a button on his tunic, 
then beckoned to the ataman. The ataman 
ran up on tiptoe, holding his breath. Knotted 
veins throbbed and quivered in his neck. 

"Take two of those on duty and arrest the 
men you mentioned. Bring them to the admin- 
istration, and we'll be along in a minute or 
two. Do you understand?" 

The ataman drew himself up so that the 
veins bulged over his high collar, uttered a 
kind of grunt and turned away to execute his 

Stockman, his vest unbuttoned, was sitting 
with his back to the door, cutting out a ply- 
wood pattern with a fret-saw. 

"Kindly stand up; you're under arrest." 

"What for?" 

"You occupy two rooms?" 


"We shall search them." 

The officer caught his spur on the doormat, 
walked across to the table and with a frown 
picked up the first book that came to hand. 

"I want the key of that trunk." 

"To what do I owe this visit?" 

"There'll be time to talk to you afterwards." 

Stockman's wife looked through the door- 
way from the other room and drew back. The 


inspector and his clerk followed her into the 
other room. 

"What's this?" the officer asked Stockman 
quietly, holding up a book in a yellow cover. 

"A book," Stockman replied with a shrug. 

"You can keep your witticisms for a more 
suitable occasion. Answer the question prop- 

Suppressing a wry smile Stockman leaned 
his back against the stove. The district chief of 
police glanced over the officer's shoulder at 
the book, and then turned to Stockman: 

"Are you studying this?" 

"I'm interested in the subject," Stockman 
replied drily, parting his black beard into two 
equal strands with a small comb. 

"I see!" 

The officer glanced through the pages of the 
book and threw it back on the table. He looked 
through a second, put it aside, and having read 
the cover of the third, turned to Stockman 

"Where do you keep the rest of this type of 

Stockman screwed up one eye as though 
taking aim, and replied: 

"You see all that I have." 

"You're lying," the officer retorted, waving 
the book at him. 


"I demand. ..." 

"Search the rooms!" 

Gripping the hilt of his sabre, the chief of 
police went across to the trunk, where a pock- 
marked Cossack guard, obviously terrified by 
the circumstances in which he found himself, 
had begun to rummage among the clothing 
and linen. 

"I demand polite treatment," Stockman man- 
aged to say at last, screwing up his eye and 
aiming at the bridge of the officer's nose. 

"Be quiet, fellow." 

The men turned out everything that it was 
possible to turn out. The search was con- 
ducted in the workshop also. The zealous in- 
spector even knocked on the walls with his 

When the search was over. Stockman was 
taken to the administration office. He walked 
along the middle of the road in front of the 
Cossack guard, one hand tucked into the lapel 
of his old coat, the other swinging as though 
he were shaking mud off his fingers. The 
others walked along the sunlit path by the 
walls; and again the inspector trod on the 
blobs of sunlight with his boots that were now 
green from the grass. He was no longer carry- 
ing his hat in his hand, but had clamped it 
down firmly over his gristly ears. 


Stockman was the last of the prisoners to be 
examined. Ivan Alexeyevich, with hands still 
oily, the smiling David, Knave with his jacket 
over his shoulders, and Misha Koshevoi, who 
had already been questioned, were herded to- 
gether in the ante-room, guarded by Cossacks. 

Rummaging in his portfolio the inspector 
questioned Stockman: 

"When I examined you in regard to the 
manslaughter at the mill why did you conceal 
the fact that you are a member of the Russian 
Social-Democratic Labour Party?" 

Stockman stared silently over the investiga- 
tor's head. 

"That much is established. You will receive 
a suitable reward for your work," the inspector 
shouted, annoyed by the prisoner's silence. 

"Please begin your examination," Stockman 
said in a bored tone, and glancing at a stool, 
he asked for permission to sit down. The in- 
spector did not reply, but glared as Stockman 
calmly seated himself. 

"When did you come here?" 

"Last year." 

"On the instructions of your organization?" 

"Without any instructions." 

"How long have you been a member of your 

"What are you talking about?" 


"I ask you, how long have you been a mem- 
ber of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour 

"I think that " 

"I don't care what you think. Answer the 
question. Denial is useless, even dangerous." 
The inspector drew a document out of his port- 
folio and pinned it to the table with his fore- 
finger. "1 have here a report from Rostov, con- 
firming your membership in the party I men- 

Stockman turned his eyes quickly to the doc- 
ument, rested his gaze on it for a moment, 
and then, stroking his knee, replied firmly: 

"Since 1907." 

"I see! You deny that you have been sent 
here by your party?" 


"In that case why did you come here?" 

"There seemed to be a shortage of mechan- 
ics here." 

"But why did you choose this particular dis- 

"For the same reason." 

"Have you now, or have you at any time 
had any contact with your organization during 
the period of your stay here?" 


"Do they know you have come here?" 


"I expect so." 

The inspector sharpened his pencil with a 
pearl-handled penknife, and pursed his lips: 

"Are you in correspondence with any mem- 
bers of your party?" 


"Then what about the letter which was 
discovered during the search?" 

"That is from a friend who has no connec- 
tion whatever with any revolutionary organ- 

"Have you received any instructions from 


"What did the labourers at the mill gather 
in your rooms for?" 

Stockman shrugged his shoulders as though 
astonished at the stupidity of the question. 

"They used to come along in the winter 
evenings, to pass the time away. We played 
cards. . . ." 

"And read books prohibited by law?" the 
inspector suggested. 

"No. Everyone of them was almost illiter- 

"Nonetheless the engineman from the mill, 
and the others also do not deny this fact." 

"That is untrue." 

"It seems to me you haven't even an ele- 


mentary understanding of . , ." Stockman 
smiled at this, and the inspector, forgetting 
what he had been going to say, concluded: 
"You simply have no sense. You persist in 
denials that are to your own disadvantage. It 
is quite clear that you've been sent here by 
your party in order to carry on demoralizing 
activities among the Cossacks, in order to turn 
them against the government. I fail to under- 
stand why you're playing this game of pre- 
tence. It can't diminish your offence. . . ." 

"Those are all quesses on your part. May I 
smoke? Thank you. And they are guesses en- 
tirely without foundation." 

"Did you read this book to the workers who 
visited your rooms?" the inspector put his 
hand on a small book and covered the title. 
Above his hand the name "Plekhanov" was 

"We read poetry," Stockman replied, and 
puffed at his cigarette, gripping the bone holder 
tightly between his fingers. 

The next morning the postal tarantass drove 
out of the village with Stockman dozing on the 
back seat, his beard buried in his coat collar. 
On each side of him a Cossack armed with a 
sabre was squeezed on the seat. One of them, a 
curly-headed pock-marked fellow, gripped Stock- 
man's elbow firmly in his knotty, dirty fingers, 


casting timorous sidelong glances at him, and 
keeping his other hand on his battered scab- 
bard. The tarantass rattled briskly down the 
street. By the Melekhovs' farmyard a little 
woman wrapped in a shawl stood waiting for 
it, her back against the wattle fence. 

The tarantass sped past, and the woman, 
pressing her hands to her breast, flung herself 
after it. 

"Osip! Osip Davydovich! Oh, what shall I 
do. . . ." 

Stockman attempted to wave his hand to 
her, but the pock-marked Cossack jumped up 
and clutched his arm, and in a hoarse, savage 
voice shouted: 

"Sit down, or I'll cut you down!" 

For the first time in all his simple life he 
had seen a man who dared to act against the 
tsar himself. 


The long road from Mankovo to the little 
town of Radzivillovo lay somewhere behind 
him in a grey, intangible mist. Grigory tried 
occasionally to recall the road, but could only 
dimly remember station buildings, the train 
wheels clattering beneath the shaking floor, 
the scent of horses and hay, endless threads 
of railway line flowing under them, the smoke 


that billowed from the engine, and the bearded 
face of a gendarme on the station platform 
either at Voronezh or at Kiev, he was not sure 

At the place where they detrained were 
crowds of officers, and clean-shaven men in 
grey overcoats, talking a language he could 
not understand. It took a long time for -the 
horses to be unloaded, but when this had been 
accomplished the assistant echelon commander 
led three hundred or more Cossacks to the 
veterinary hospital. A long procedure in con- 
nection with the examination of the horses. 
Then allotment to troops. N.C.O.'s bustling 
about. The First Troop was formed of light- 
brown horses, the Second of bay and dun, the 
Third of dark-brown. Grigory was allotted to 
the Fourth, which consisted of plain brown 
and golden horses. The Fifth was composed 
entirely of sorrel, and the Sixth of black horses. 
The troops were put under the command of 
sergeants-major, who took them out to the 
various cavalry squadrons stationed at villages 
and estates in the neighbourhood. 

The debonair pop-eyed sergeant-major wear- 
ing long-service badges rode past Grigory and 

"What stanitsa are you from?" 



"Are you bob-tailed*?" 

The Cossacks from other stanitsas chuckled 
and Grigory swallowed the insult in silence. 

The road taken by Grigory's troop led them 
along the highway. The Don horses, which had 
never seen proper highways before, at first 
stepped along gingerly, as if on an ice-bound 
river, setting their ears back and snorting; 
but after a while they got the feel of the road 
and their fresh-shod hoofs clattered sharply as 
they moved on. The unfamiliar Polish land was 
criss-crossed with slices of straggling forest. 
The day was warm and overcast, and the sun 
hovering behind a dense curtain of cloud also 
seemed alien and unfamiliar. 

The estate of Radzivillovo was some four 
versts from the station, and they reached it 
in half an hour. 

"What village is this, uncle?" a young Cos- 
sack asked the sergeant-major, pointing to the 
naked tree tops in a garden. 

"What village? You forget about your Cos- 
sack villages here, my lad, this isn't the Don 

"What is it then, uncle?" 

* Each stanitsa had a nickname. Vyeshenskaya was 
known as Dogs. 


"I, your uncle? A fine nephew you make! 
That, my lad, is the estate of Princess Urusova, 
Our Fourth Company is quartered here." 

Despondently stroking his horse's neck, Gri- 
gory stared at the neatly-built, two-storied 
house, the wooden fence, and the unfamiliar 
style of the farm buildings. But as they rode 
past the orchard the bare trees whispered the 
same language as those in the distant Don 

Life now showed its most tedious, stupefy- 
ing side to the Cossacks. Deprived of work, 
the young men quickly grew homesick, and 
spent most of their free time talking. Grigory's 
troop was quartered in a great tile-roofed wing 
of the house, sleeping on pallet beds under the 
windows. At night the paper pasted over the 
chinks of the window sounded in the breeze 
like a distant shepherd's horn, and as he lis- 
tened to it amid the snoring Grigory was seized 
with a well-nigh irresistible desire to get up, 
go to the stables, saddle his horse and ride 
and ride until he reached home again. 

Reveille was sounded at five o'clock, and the 
first duty of the day was to clean and groom 
the horses. During the brief half-hour when 
the horses were feeding there was opportunity 
for desultory conversation. 

"This is a hell of a life, boys!" 

26—1933 401 

"1 can't stick it." 

"And the sergeant-major! What a swine! 
Making us wash the horses' hoofs!" 

"They're making the pancakes at home now 
. , . today is Shrove-Tuesday." 

"I could just do with a spot of necking." 

"I had a dream last night, lads, I dreamed 
that Father and me were mowing hay in the 
meadow and the village folk were all scattered 
round like daisies on a threshing-floor," said 
Prokhor Zykov, a quiet lad with gentle calf- 
like eyes. "And we just went on mowing and 
mowing. . . . Made me feel right cheerful!" 

"I bet my wife is saying: 'I wonder what 
my Nikolai is doing?' " 

"Ho-ho-ho! She'll be belly-rubbing with your 
father most likely!" 

"Well, that's " 

"There isn't a woman in the world who won't 
try another man when her husband's away." 

"Why worry? A woman's not a jug of milk. 
There'll be enough left for us when we get 

Yegor Zharkov, the gayest, lewdest man in 
the company, who had little respect for any- 
one and still less shame, broke into the conver- 
sation, winking and smiling suggestively: 

"It's a sure thing: your father won't leave 
your wife alone. He's a fine he-dog. I'll tell you 


a story," he added, sweeping his listeners with 
his glittering glance. 

"One old grumble kept running after his 
daughter-in-law, gave her no rest, but his son 
was always in the way. So what did the old 
man do? At night he went into the yard and 
opened the gate. And all the cattle got out. 
So he says to his son: "What have you done, 
you lazy so-and-so? Why didn't you shut the 
gate? Look, all the cattle have wandered out. 
Go and drive them back.' You see, he thought 
when his son had gone he'd have time to get 
at his daughter-in-law. But his son was lazy 
and whispered to his wife: 'You go and drive 
them back.' So she went out, and he lay there, 
listening. The father slipped down from the 
stove and crawled over on his hands and knees 
towards the bed. But his son was no fool. He 
took a rolling-pin from the shelf and waited. 
As soon as his father crawled up to the bed 
and put his hand on him, he gave him such 
a whack with the pin right across his bold 
head. 'Go away,' he shouted, 'don't you chew 
my blanket, curse you.' 

"You see, they had a calf in the house which 
had a habit of chewing things, so the son pre- 
tended he had struck the calf. The old man 
managed to crawl back to his stove and lay 
there, tenderly fingering the bump which was as 

26* 403 

big as a goose egg. 'Ivan/ says he at last, 'who 
did you strike just now?' 'Only the calf/ Ivan 
answers. 'What kind of a master will you 
make/ says the old man almost in tears, 'if you 
knock the cattle about like that?' " 

"You're a mighty good liar!" 

"What's this, the market-place? Break it up!" 
shouted the sergeant-major, coming up to 
them. The Cossacks went to their horses, laugh- 
ing and joking. 

During exercise the officers stood smoking 
at the side of the yard, occasionally interven- 
ing. As Grigory glanced at the polished, well- 
groomed officers in their handsome grey great- 
coats and closely-fitting uniforms, he felt that 
there was an impassable wall between them 
and himself. Their very different, comfortable, 
well-ordered existence, so unlike that of the 
Cossacks, flowed on peacefully, untroubled by 
mud, lice, or fear of the sergeant-major's fists. 

An incident which occurred on the third day 
after their arrival at Radzivillovo made a pain- 
ful impression on Grigory, and indeed on all 
the young Cossacks. They were being instructed 
in cavalry drill, and the horse ridden by Pro- 
khor Zykov, the lad with gentle eyes, who of- 
ten dreamed of his faraway Cossack village, 
was a wild, spirited animal and happened to 
kick the sergeant-major's mount as it passed, 


The blow was not very hard and it only 
grazed the skin on the horse's left leg. But 
the sergeant-major struck Prokhor across the 
face with his whip, and riding straight at him, 

"Why the hell don't you look where you're 
going, you son of a bitch? I'll show you. . . . 
You'll spend the next three days on duty!" 

The squadron commander happened to wit- 
ness the scene, but he turned his back, finger- 
ing the sword-knot of his sabre and yawning 
with boredom. His lips trembling, Prokhor 
rubbed a streak of blood from his swollen 

Pulling his horse into line, Grigory looked 
at the officers, but they continued their conver- 
sation as if nothing untoward had occurred. 
Five days later Grigory dropped a bucket into 
the well. The sergeant-major swooped on him 
like a hawk, and raised his fist, 

"Don't you touch me," Grigory said huskily, 
looking into the rippling water below. 

"What? Climb down and get it, you bastard! 
I'll smash your face in for this!" 

"I'll get it, but don't you touch me," Gri- 
gory said slowly, without raising his head. 

If there had been any Cossacks at the well, 
the sergeant-major would undoubtedly have 
beaten Grigory, but they were attending to 


their horses at the fence and could not hear 
what was going on. The sergeant-major ap- 
proached Grigory, glancing back at the Cos- 
sacks, his bulging eyes insane with rage as 
he hissed: 

"Who do you think you are? How dare you 
speak to your superior in this way?" 

"Don't look for trouble, Semyon Yegorov." 

"Are you threatening me? I'll. . . ." 

"Look here," Grigory said, raising his head 
from the well. "If you strike me-I'll kill you. 

The sergeant-major's great carp-like mouth 
gaped in amazement but no answer came. The 
moment for punishment had been missed. Gri- 
gory's greyish face boded nothing good. The 
sergeant-major was nonplussed. He walked 
away from the well, slipping in the mud, and 
when some distance away, turned and shook his 
huge fist. 

"I'll report you to the squadron commander," 
he shouted. "Yes, I'll report you." 

However, for some unknown reason, he did 
not report Grigory. But for about a fortnight 
afterwards he was always finding fault with 
him and appointing him for sentry duty out of 

The dreary, monotonous order of existence 
crushed the spirit out of the young Cossacks. 


Until sundown they were kept continually at 
foot and horse exercises, and in the evening 
the horses had to be groomed and fed. At ten 
o'clock, after roll call and stationing of guards, 
they were drawn up for prayers, and the ser- 
geant-major, his eyes wandering over the ranks 
before him, intoned the Lord's prayer. 

In the morning the same routine began 
again, and the days were as like one another 
as peas. 

In the whole of the estate there were only 
two women: the old wife of the steward, and 
the steward's pretty young housemaid, a Pol- 
ish girl Franya. Franya often ran from the 
house to the kitchen where the old, browless 
army cook was in charge. Winking and heav- 
ing exaggeratedly loud sighs, the troops drill- 
ing on the parade ground watched every move- 
ment of the girl's grey skirt as she ran across 
the yard. Feeling the gaze of Cossacks and offi- 
cers fixed upon her, she bathed in the streams 
of lasciviousness that came from three hundred 
pairs of eyes, and swung her hips provoca- 
tively as she ran backward and forward between 
the kitchen and the house, smiling at each 
troop in turn, and at the officers in particular. 
Although all fought for her attentions, rumour 
had it that only the squadron commander had 
won them, 


One day in early spring Grigory was on 
duty in the stables. He spent most of his time 
at one end, where the officers' horses were ex- 
cited by the presence of a mare. He had just 
given the squadron commander's horse a taste 
of the whip and was attending to his own. 
With a sidelong glance at its master the horse 
went on champing the hay, its grazed hind- 
foot lifted off the ground. As he adjusted the 
halter, Grigory heard a sound of struggling 
and a muffled cry coming from the dark cor- 
ner at the far end of the stable. Startled by 
the unusual noise, he hurried past the stalls. 
His eyes were suddenly blinded as someone 
slammed the stable door, and he heard a sup- 
pressed voice calling: 

"Hurry up, boys!" 

Grigory hastened his steps, and called out: 

"Who's there?" 

The next moment he bumped into one of the 
sergeants, who was groping his way to the 
door. "That you, Melekhov?" the sergeant whis- 
pered, putting his hand on Grigory's shoulder. 

"Stop! What's up?" 

The sergeant burst into a guilty snigger and 
seized Grigory's sleeve. "We. . . . Hey, where're 
you going?" Tearing his arm away, Grigory 
ran and threw open the door. In the deserted 
yard a draggle-tailed hen, unaware that the 


cook already had designs on her for the stew- 
ard's soup the next day, was scratching some 
dung in search of a place to lay her egg. 

The light momentarily blinded Grigory; he 
shaded his eyes with his hand and turned 
round, hearing the noise in the dark corner of 
the stable growing louder. He ran towards the 
sound, and was met by Zharkov, buttoning up 
his trousers. 

"What the . . . what are you doing here?" 
"Hurry up!" Zharkov whispered, breathing 
bad breath in Grigory's face. "It's wonder- 
ful. . . . They've dragged the girl Franya in 
there . . . laid her out!" His snigger suddenly 
broke off as Grigory sent him flying against 
the log wall of the stable. Grigory's eyes grew 
accustomed to the darkness and there was fear 
in them as he ran towards the noise. In the 
corner, Grigory found a crowd of Cossacks of 
the First Troop. He silently pushed his way 
through them, and saw Franya lying motion- 
less on the floor, her head wrapped in horse- 
cloths, her dress torn and pulled back above 
her breasts, her legs, white in the darkness, 
flung out shamelessly and horribly. A Cossack 
had just risen from her; grinning sheepishly, 
he was stepping back to make way for the 
next, Grigory tore his way back through the 
crowd and ran to the door, shouting for the 


sergeant-major. But the other Cossacks ran 
after him and caught him at the door. They 
dragged him back, putting their hands over 
his mouth. He tore one man's tunic from hem 
to collar and gave another a kick in the stom- 
ach, but the others pinned him down. As 
they had done to Franya, they wound a horse- 
cloth round his head and tied his hands behind 
him, then, keeping quiet so that he should not 
recognize their voices, threw him into an empty 
manger. Choking in the stinking horse-cloth, he 
tried to shout, and kicked furiously at the par- 
tition. He heard whispering in the corner, and 
the door creaking as the Cossacks went in and 
out. He was set free some twenty minutes later. 
The sergeant-major and two Cossacks from an- 
other troop were standing at the door. 

"You just keep your mouth shut!" the ser- 
geant-major said to him, winking hard and 
glancing over his shoulder. 

"Don't blab or we'll tear your ears off," 
Dubok, a Cossack from another troop, said with 
a grin. 

The two Cossacks went in and lifted up the 
motionless bundle that was Franya (her legs 
were parted stiffly under her skirt), and climb- 
ing on to a manger, thrust it through a hole 
left in the wall by a lose plank. The wall bor- 
dered on the orchard. Above each §tall was 


a tiny, grimy window. Some of the Cossacks 
clambered on to the stall partitions to watch 
what Franya would do, others hastened out 
of the stables. Grigory, too, was seized by a 
bestial curiosity, and gripping a cross-beam, 
he drew himself up to one of the windows and 
looked down. Dozens of eyes stared through 
the dirty windows at the girl lying under the 
wall. She lay on her back, her legs crossing 
and uncrossing like scissor blades, her fingers 
scrabbling in the snow by the wall. Grigory 
could not see her face but he heard the sup- 
pressed breathing of other Cossacks at the win- 
dows, and the soft and pleasant crunch of hay 
under their feet. 

She lay there a long time, and at last strug- 
gled on to her hands and knees. Her arms trem- 
bled, hardly able to bear her. Grigory saw that 
clearly. Swaying, she scrambled to her feet, 
and, dishevelled, unfamiliar, hostile, she passed 
her eyes in a long, slow stare over the win- 

Then she staggered away, one hand clinging 
to the woodbine bushes, the other groping along 
the wall. 

Grigory jumped down from the partition and 
rubbed his throat, feeling that he was about 
to choke. At the door someone, afterwards he 


could not even remember who, said to him in 
distinct and unequivocal tones: 

"Breathe a word . . . and by Christ, we'll 
kill you!" 

On the parade ground the troop commander 
noticed that a button had been torn from Gri- 
gory's greatcoat, and asked: 

"Who have you been wrestling with? What 
style d'you call this?" 

Grigory glanced down at the little round 
hole left by the missing button; overwhelmed 
by the memory, for the first time in years he 
felt like crying. 


A sultry, sunny July haze lay over the steppe. 
The ripe unharvested floods of wheat smoked 
with yellow dust. The metal of the reapers 
was too hot to touch. It was painful to look 
up at the flaming, bluish-yellow sky. Where 
the wheat ended, a saffron sweep of clover be- 

The entire village had moved out into the 
steppe to cut the rye. The horses choked in 
the heat and the pungent dust, and were res- 
tive as they dragged the reapers. Now and then 
a wave of air from the river raised a fringe 
of dust over the steppe, and the sun was en- 
veloped in a tingling haze. 


Since early morning Pyotr, who was fork- 
ing the wheat off the reaper platform, had 
drunk half a bucketful of water. Within a min- 
ute of his drinking the warm, unpleasant liq- 
uid his throat was dry again. His shirt was 
wet through, the sweat streamed from his face, 
there was a continual trilling ring in his ears. 
Darya, her head and face wrapped in her ker- 
chief, her shirt unbuttoned, was gathering the 
corn into stooks. Big grey beads of sweat ran 
down between her dusky breasts. Natalya was 
leading the horses. Her cheeks were burned 
the colour of beetroot, and the glaring sun 
brought tears to her eyes. Pantelei was walking 
up and down the swaths of corn, his wet shirt 
scalding his body. His beard looked like a 
stream of melting black cart-grease flowing 
over his chest. 

"Make you sweat?" Christonya shouted 
from a passing cart. 

"Wet through!" Pantelei stumped on, wip- 
ing his perspiring belly with the tail of his 

"Pyotr!" Darya called. "Let's stop." 
"Wait a bit; we'll finish this row." 
"Let's wait till it's cooler. I've had enough." 
Natalya halted the horses; her chest was heav- 
ing as though it were she who had been pull- 
ing the reaper. Darya went across to them, 


picking her way carefully over the cut corn 
on her dark blistered feet. 

"Pyotr, it's not far from the pond here." 
"Not far! Only three versts or so!" 
"What wouldn't I give for a dip!" 
"While you're getting there and back . . ." 
Natalya began with a sigh. 

"Why the devil should we walk! We'll un- 
harness the horses and ride." 

Pyotr glanced uneasily at his father tying up 
a sheaf, and shrugged. 

"All right, unharness the horses." 
Darya unfastened the traces and jumped 
agilely on to the mare's back. Natalya, smiling 
with cracked lips, led her horse to the reaper 
and tried to mount from the driver's seat. Pyotr 
went to her aid and gave her a leg up on to 
the horse. They rode off. Darya, sitting her 
horse Cossack fashion, trotted in front, her 
skirt tucked up above her bare knees, her ker- 
chief pushed on to the back of the head. 

"Mind you don't get sore!" Pyotr could not 
help shouting after her. 

"You needn't worry!" Darya shouted back 

As they crossed the field track Pyotr glanced 
to his left and noticed a tiny cloud of dust mov- 
ing swiftly along the distant highroad from the 


"Someone riding there!" he remarked to Na- 
talya, screwing up his eyes. 

"And fast, too! Look at the dust!" Natalya 
replied in surprise. 

"Who on earth can it be! Darya!" Pyotr called 
to his wife. "Rein in for a minute, and let's 
watch that rider!" 

The cloud of dust dropped down into a hol- 
low and disappeared, then came up again on 
the other side. Now the figure of the rider 
could be seen through the dust. Pyotr sat gaz- 
ing with his dirty palm set against the edge 
of his straw hat. 

"No horse can stand that pace for long. He'll 
kill it!" He frowned and took his hand away; 
an agitated expression passed across his 

Now the horseman could be seen quite plain- 
ly. He was riding his horse at a furious gallop, 
his left hand holding on his cap, a dusty red 
flag fluttering in his right. He rode along the 
track so close to them that Pyotr heard his 
horse's panting breath. As he passed, the man 


A flake of yellow soapy foam flew from his 
horse and fell into a hoof-print. Pyotr followed 
the rider with his eyes. The heavy snort of the 
horse, and, as he stared after the retreating fig- 


ure, the sight of the horse's croup, wet and 
glittering like steel, remained impressed in his 

Still not realizing the nature of the misfor- 
tune that had come upon them, Pyotr gazed 
stupidly at the foam flying in the dust, then 
glanced around the rolling steppe. From all 
sides the Cossacks were running over the yel- 
low strips of stubble towards the village; across 
the steppe, as far as the distant upland, 
little clouds of dust indicating horsemen were 
to be seen, A long trail of dust moved along 
the road to the village. The Cossacks who were 
on the active service list abandoned their work, 
took their horses out of the shafts and galloped 
off to the village. Pyotr saw Christonya unhar- 
ness his Guards charger from a wagon and ride 
off at a wild pace, glancing back over his 

"What's it all about?" Natalya half groaned, 
with a frightened look at Pyotr. Her gaze, the 
gaze of a trapped hare, startled him to action. 
He galloped back to the reaper, jumped off his 
horse before it had halted, hustled into the 
trousers he had flung off while working, and 
waving his hand to his father, tore off to add 
one more cloud of dust to those which had 
already blossomed over the sultry steppe. 



He found a dense grey crowd assembled on 
the square. Many were already wearing their 
army uniform and equipment. The blue mili- 
tary caps of the men belonging to the Ataman's 
Regiment rose a head higher than the rest, like 
Dutch ganders among the small fry of the farm- 

The village tavern was closed. The military 
police officer had a gloomy and care-worn look. 
The women, attired in their holiday clothes, 
lined the fences along the streets. One word 
was on everybody's lips: "Mobilization." In- 
toxicated, excited faces. The general anxiety had 
been communicated to the horses, and they 
were kicking and plunging and snorting angri- 
ly. The square was strewn with empty bottles 
and wrappers from cheap sweets. A cloud of 
dust hung low in the air. 

Pyotr led his saddled horse by the rem. 
Close to the church fence a big swarthy Cos- 
sack of the Ataman's Regiment stood button- 
ing up his blue sharovari, with his mouth gap- 
ing in a white-toothed smile, while a stocky 
little woman, his wife or sweetheart, stormed 
at him. 

"I'll give it you for going with that hussy!" 
the little woman promised. 

27—1933 417 

She was drunk, her dishevelled hair was scat- 
tered with the husks of sunflower seed, her 
flowered kerchief hung loose. The guardsman 
tightened his belt and, grinning widely, dropped 
to his haunches, leaving enough room for 
a year-old calf to pass under the voluminous 
folds of his sharouari. 

"Keep off, Mashka." 

"You great shameless brute! Woman-chaser!" 

"What about it?" 

"I'll give it you!" 

Near him a red-bearded sergeant-major was 
arguing with an artilleryman. 

"Nothing will come of it, never fear!" he 
was assuring him. "We'll be mobilized for a 
few days, and then back home again." 

"But suppose there's a war?" 

"Pah, my friend! What country could stand 
up to us?" 

In a neighbouring group a handsome, elder- 
ly Cossack was arguing heatedly. 

"It's nothing to do with us. Let them do 
their own fighting, we haven't got our corn in 

"It's a shame! Here we are standing here, 
and on a day like this we could harvest enough 
for a whole year." 

"The cattle will get among the stooks!" 

"And we'd just begun to reap the barley!" 


"They say the Austrian tsar's been mur- 

"No, his heir." 

"But the ataman says they've called us up 
just in case." 

"We're in for it now, lads." 

"Another twelve months and I'd have been 
out of the third line of reserves," an elderly 
Cossack said regretfully. 

"What do they want you for. Grandad?" 

"Don't you worry, as soon as they start kill- 
ing the men off, they'll be taking the old ones, 

"The tavern's closed!" 

"What about going to Marfutka's? She'd sell 
us a barrel!" 

The inspection started. Three Cossacks led a 
fourth, blood-stained and completely drunk, 
into the village administration. He threw him- 
self back, tore his shirt open, and rolling his 
eyes, shouted: 

"I'll show the muzhiks! I'll have their blood! 
They'll know the Don Cossack!" 

The circle around him laughed approvingly. 

"That's right, give it to them!" 

"What have they grabbed him for?" 

"He went for some muzhik!" 

"Well, they deserve it." 

"We'll give them some more!" 

27* 419 

"I took a hand when they put them down 
in 1905. That was a sight worth seeing!" 

"There's going to be war. They'll be send- 
ing us again to put them down." 

"Enough of that. Let them hire people for 
that, or let the police do it. It's a shame for 
us to." 

Mokhov's shop was surging with people. In 
the middle Ivan Tomilin was arguing drunken- 
ly with the owners. Mokhov was trying to pac- 
ify him. Atyopin, his partner, had retired to 
the doorway. "What's all this?" he expostulat- 
ed. "My word, this is an outrage! Boy, run for 
the ataman!" 

Rubbing his sweaty hands on his trousers, 
Tomilin pressed against the frowning merchant 
and sneered: 

"You've squeezed us and squeezed us with 
your interest, you swine, and now you've got 
the wind up. I'll smash your face in! Stealing 
our Cossack rights, you fat slug!" 

The village ataman was busily pouring out 
soothing words for the benefit of the Cossacks 
sun-ounding him: "War? No, there won't be 
any war. His Honour the chief of the military 
police said the mobilization was only a drill. 
There's no need for alarm." 

"Good! Back to the fields as soon as we're 


"What are the authorities thinking about? I 
have over a hundred dessiatines of harvesting 
to do." 

"Timoshka! Tell our folk we'll be home again 

"Looks as if they've put a notice up. Let's 
go and have a look." 

Until late at night the square was alive and 
noisy with excited crowds. 

Some four days later the red trucks of the 
troop trains were carrying the Cossack regi- 
ments and batteries towards the Russo-Aus- 
trian frontier. 

"War. . . ." 

From the stalls came the snorting of horses 
and the damp stench of dung. 

The same kind of talk in the wagons, the 
songs mostly of this kind: 

The Don's awake and stirring. 
The quiet and Christian Don, 
In obedience to the call. 
The monarch's call, it marches on. 

At the stations the Cossacks were eyed with 
inquisitive, benevolent looks. People stared 
curiously at the stripes on the Cossacks' trou- 
sers, at their faces, still dark from their recent 
labour in the fields. 


"War. . . ." 

Newspapers screamed out the news. At the 
stations the women waved their handkerchiefs, 
smiled, threw cigarettes and sweets. Only once, 
just before the train reached Voronezh, did an 
old railway worker, half drunk, thrust his head 
into the truck where Pyotr Melekhov was crowd- 
ed with twenty-nine other Cossacks, and ask: 

"You going?" 

"Yes. Get in and come with us. Grandad," 
one of the Cossacks replied. 

"My boy. , . . Bullocks for slaughter!" the 
old man responded and shook his head re- 


During the fourth week of June, 1914, the 
divisional staff transferred Grigory Melekhov's 
regiment to the town of Rovno, to take part 
in manoeuvres. Two infantry divisions were 
located in the neighbourhood as well as cav- 
alry units. The Fourth Squadron was sta- 
tioned in the village of Vladislavka. A fortnight 
later, tired out with continual manoeuvring, 
Grigory and the other Cossacks of the Fourth 
Squadron were lying in their tents, when the 
squadron commander. Junior Captain Polkov- 
nikov, galloped furiously back from the regi- 
ment staff. 


"We'll be on the move again I suppose," Pro- 
khor Zykov suggested tentatively, and fell si- 
lent waiting for the sound of the bugle. 

The troop sergeant thrust the needle with 
which he had been mending his trousers into 
the lining of his cap, and remarked: 

"Looks like it; they won't let us rest for a 

"Sergeant-major said the brigade command- 
er will be visiting us." 

A minute or two later the bugler sounded the 
alarm. The Cossacks jumped to their feet. 

"What have I done with my pouch?" Pro- 
khor exclaimed, searching frantically. 

"Boot and saddle!" 

"Your pouch can go to hell," Grigory shout- 
ed as he ran out. 

The sergeant-major ran into the yard and, 
holding the hilt of his sword, made for the 
hitching posts. They had their horses saddled 
well within regulation time. As Grigory was 
tearing up the tent-pegs the sergeant managed 
to mutter to him: 

"It's war this time, my boy!" 

"You're fooling!" 

"God's truth! The sergeant-major told me." 

The squadron formed up in the street, the 
commander at its head. "In troop columns!" 
his command flew over the ranks. 


Hoofs clattered as the horses trotted out of 
the village on to the highway. From a neigh- 
bouring village the First and Fifth squadrons 
could be seen riding towards the station. 

A day later the regiment was detrained at 
a station some thirty-five versts from the Aus- 
trian frontier. Dawn was breaking behind the 
station birch-trees. The morning promised to 
be fine. The engine fussed and rumbled over 
the tracks. The lines glittered under a varnish 
of dew. The Cossacks of the Fourth Squadron 
led their horses by the bridles out of the wag- 
ons and over the level-crossing, mounted, and 
moved off in column formation. Their voices 
sounded eerily in the crumbling, lilac darkness. 
Faces and the contours of horses emerged un- 
certainly out of the gloom. 

"What squadron is that?" 

"And who are you? Where' ve you come 

"I'll show you who I am! How dare you 
speak to an officer in that way?" 

"Sorry, Your Honour, didn't recognize you." 

"Ride on! Ride on!" 

"What are you dawdling about for? Get mov- 

"Where's your Third Troop, sergeant-ma- 

"Squadron, bring up the rear!" 


Muttered whispers in the column: 

"Bring up the rear, blast him, when we 
haven't slept for two nights." 

"Give me a puff, Syomka, haven't had a 
smoke since yesterday." 

"Hold your horse. . . ." 

"He's bitten through his saddle-strap, the 

"Mine's lost a hoof in front." 

A little farther on the Fourth Squadron was 
held up for a while by the first, which had 
detrained before it. Against the bluish grey of 
the sky the silhouettes of the horsemen ahead 
stood out clearly, as though drawn with Indian 
ink. Their lances swung like bare sunflower 
stalks. Occasionally a stirrup jingled or a saddle 

Prokhor Zykov was riding at Grigory's side. 
Prokhor stared into his face and whispered: 

"Melekhov, you're not afraid, are you?" 

"What is there to be afraid of?" 

"We may be in action today." 

"Well, what of it?" 

"But I'm afraid," Prokhor admitted, his fin- 
gers playing nervously with the dewy reins. "I 
didn't sleep a wink all night." 

Once more the squadron advanced; the 
horses moved at a measured pace, the lances 
swayed and flowed rhythmically. Dropping 


the reins, Grigory dozed. And it seemed to 
him that it was not the horse that put its legs 
forward springily, rocking him in the saddle, 
but he himself who was walking along a warm, 
dark road, and walking with unusual ease, 
with irresistible joy. Prokhor chattered away 
at his side, but his voice mingled with the 
creak of the saddle and the clatter of hoofs, 
and did not disturb his thoughtless doze. 

The squadron turned into a by-road. The 
silence rang in their ears. Ripe oats hung over 
the wayside, their tops smoking with dew. The 
horses tried to reach the low ears and dragged 
the reins out of their riders' hands. The gra- 
cious daylight crept under Grigory's puffy eye- 
lids. He raised his head and heard Prokhor' s 
monotonous voice, like the creak of a cart- 

He was abruptly aroused by a heavy, rum- 
bling roar that billowed across the oatfields. 

"Gun-fire!" Prokhor almost shouted, and 
fright clouded his calf-like eyes. Grigory lifted 
his head. In front of him the troop-sergeant's 
grey greatcoat rose and fell in time with the 
horse's back; on each side stretched fields of 
unreaped corn; a skylark danced in the sky at 
the height of a telegraph pole. The entire squad- 
ron was aroused, the sound of the firing ran 
through it like an electric current. Lashed into 


activity. Junior Captain Polkovnikov put the 
squadron into a fast trot. Beyond a cross-road, 
where a deserted tavern stood, they began to 
meet with carts of refugees. A squadron of 
smart-looking dragoons went by. Their captain, 
riding a sorrel thoroughbred, stared at the Cos- 
sacks ironically and spurred on his horse. They 
came upon a howitzer battery stranded in a 
muddy and swampy hollow. The riders were 
lashing at their horses, while the gunners 
struggled with the carriage wheels. A great, 
pock-marked artilleryman passed carrying an 
armful of boards probably torn from the fence 
of the tavern. 

A little farther on they overtook an infantry 
regiment. The soldiers were marching fast, their 
greatcoats rolled on their backs. The sun glit- 
tered on their polished mess-tins and streamed 
from their bayonets. A lively little corporal in 
the last company threw a lump of mud at Gri- 

"Here, catch! Chuck it at the Austrians!" 
"Don't play about, grasshopper!" Grigory 
replied, and cut the lump of mud in its flight 
with his whip. 

"Say hullo to 'em from us, Cossacks!" 
"You'll have a chance yourselves." 
At the head of the column someone struck 
up a bawdy song; a soldier with fat womanish 


buttocks marched beside the column slapping 
his stumpy calves. The officers laughed. The 
keen sense of approaching danger had brought 
them closer to the men and made them more 

From now on the column was continually 
passing foot regiments crawling like caterpil- 
lars, batteries, baggage-wagons. Red Cross wag- 
ons. The deathly breath of fighting close at 
hand was in the air. 

A little later, as it was entering a village, the 
Fourth Squadron was overtaken by the com- 
mander of the regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Ka- 
ledin, accompanied by his second in command. 
As they passed, Grigory heard the latter say 
agitatedly toKaledin: "This village isn't marked 
on the map, Vasily Maximovich! We may 
find ourselves in an awkward position." 
Grigory did not catch the colonel's reply. 
The adjutant galloped past overtaking them. 
His horse was stepping heavily on its left hind- 
foot. Grigory mechanically noted its fine points. 
The regiment was continually changing its 
pace, and the horses began to sweat. The cot- 
tages of a small village lying under a gentle 
slope appeared in the distance. On the other 
side of the village was a wood, its green tree- 
tops piercing the azure dome of the sky. From 
beyond the wood splashes of gunfire mingled 


with the frequent rattle of rifle-shots. The horses 
pricked up their ears. The smoke of burst- 
ing shrapnel hovered in the sky a long way off ; 
the rifle-fire moved slowly to the right of the 
company, now dying away, now growing 

Grigory listened tensely to every sound, his 
nerves tautened into little bundles of sensation. 
Prokhor Zykov fidgeted in his saddle, talking 

"Grigory, those shots sound just like boys 
rattling sticks along railings, don't they?" 

"Shut up, magpie!" 

The squadron entered the village. Soldiers 
were milling about in the yards. The inhabit- 
ants of the cottages, alarm and confusion writ- 
ten on their faces, were packing their belongings 
to flee. As Grigory passed he noticed that sol- 
diers were firing the roof of a shed, but its 
owner, a tall, grey-haired Byelorussian, crushed 
by his sudden misfortune, went past them 
without paying the slightest attention. Grigory 
saw the man's family loading a cart with red- 
covered pillows and ramshackle furniture, and 
the man himself was carefully carrying a bro- 
ken wheel-rim, which was of no value to any- 
body, and had probably lain in the yard for 
years. Grigory was amazed at the stupidity 
of the women, who were piling the carts with 


flower pots and icons and were leaving neces- 
sary and valuable articles behind in their houses. 
Down the street the feathers from a feath- 
er-bed blew like a miniature snow-storm and 
there was a pungent smell of burning soot and 
musty cellars in the air. 

At the end of the village they met a Jew run- 
ning towards them. The narrow slit of his 
mouth was torn apart in a cry! 

"Mister Cossack, Mister Cossack! Oh, my 

A short, round-headed Cossack rode ahead 
of him at a trot, waving his whip and ignoring 
him completely, 

"Stop!" a junior captain from the Second 
Squadron shouted to the Cossack. 

The Cossack bent over the pommel of his 
saddle and galloped into a side street. 

"Stop, you scoundrel. What regiment are 



The Cossack's round head pressed closer to 
the horse's neck. He galloped madly towards 
a tall fence, reared his horse, and took the 
jump neatly. 

"The Ninth Regiment is stationed here. Your 
Honour, That's where he's from," said the ser- 

"Let him go to the devil," the junior cap- 
tain frowned, and turned to the Jew who was 


clutching at his stirrup. "What did he take 
from you?" 

"Mister Officer . . . my watch. Mister Offi- 
cer." The Jew blinked, turning his handsome 
face towards the approaching officers. 

The junior captain, freeing the stirrup with 
his foot, started forward. 

"The Germans would have taken it anyhow, 
when they came," he said smiling into his 

The Jew stood confusedly in the middle of 
the road. His face twitched. 

"Make way, master Sheeny," shouted the 
squadron commander sternly, raising his whip. 

The Fourth Squadron rode by, hoofs clatter- 
ing, saddles creaking. The Cossacks jeered at 
the disconcerted Jew, and spoke among them- 

"The likes of us can't help stealing." 

"Everything sticks to a Cossack's hand." 

"Let them be more careful about their 

"A nimble fellow, that!" 

"The way he took that fence, like a borzoi." 

Sergeant-Major Kargin dropped behind the 
squadron, and to the accompaniment of laugh- 
ter from the Cossacks lowered his lance and 

"Run, Sheeny, before I. , . ." 


The Jew gasped and ran. The sergeant-major 
overtook him and struck him with his whip. 
Grigory saw the Jew stumble and, covering 
his face with his palms, turn to the sergeant- 
major. Through his thin fingers the blood was 

"What for?" he sobbed. 

The sergeant-major, his sharp button-like 
eyes smiling greasily as he rode away, shouted: 

"Don't go barefoot, you fool!" 

Beyond the village a group of engineers was 
completing a broad trestle bridge across a hol- 
low overgrown with sedge and yellow water- 
lilies. Close by a motor car stood rattling and 
humming with a chauffeur fussing round it. 
A stout grey-haired general with a Spanish 
beard and baggy cheeks was half-sitting, half- 
lying on the back seat. Lieutenant-Colonel Ka- 
ledin and the commander of the engineers' bat- 
talion stood at attention by the car. The gener- 
al, clutching the strap of his map case, 
bawled furiously at the engineer: 

"You were ordered to finish this work yester- 
day. Silence! You should have arranged the 
supply of materials beforehand. Silence!" he 
roared again, although the officer had made no 
attempt to open his trembling lips. "How do 
you expect me to cross over? Answer me. Cap- 
tain, how am I to cross?" 


A young black-moustached general also sit- 
ting in the car smoked a cigar and smiled. The 
engineer captain bent forward and pointed to 
one side of the bridge. 

At the bridge the squadron rode down into 
the hollow. The horses sank into the brownish- 
black mud up to their knees, and feathery white 
shavings scattered down on them from the 

The squadron crossed the Austrian frontier 
at noon. The horses leaped the broken black- 
and-white pole of the frontier post. From the 
right came the rumble of gunfire. In the dis- 
tance the red-tiled roofs of a farm showed up 
in the perpendicular lays of the sun. A bitter- 
tasting cloud of dust settled thickly on every- 
thing. The regimental commander issued or- 
ders for advance patrols to be detached and 
sent ahead. The Third Troop under Lieutenant 
Semyonov was sent out from the Fourth Squad- 
ron. The regiment, split up into squadrons, 
was left behind in a grey haze. A detachment 
of some twenty Cossacks rode past the farm 
along the rutted road. 

The lieutenant led the reconnaissance patrol 
about three versts, then halted to study his 
map. The Cossacks gathered in a group to 
smoke. Grigory dismounted to ease his saddle- 
girth, but the sergeant-major shouted: 

28—1933 433 

"What do you think you're doing? Get back 
on your horse!" 

The lieutenant lit a cigarette, and carefully 
wiped his binoculars. A valley lay before them 
in the midday heat. To the right rose the jagged 
outline of a wood pierced by a pointed spear 
of railway tracks. About a verst and a half 
away was a little village, beyond it the gouged 
clay banks of a stream and the cool glassy 
surface of the water. The officer stared intently 
through his binoculars, studying the deathly 
stillness of the village streets, but they were as 
deserted as a graveyard. Only the blue ribbon 
of water beckoned challengingly. 

"That must be Korolyovka!" the officer in- 
dicated the village with his eyes. 

The sergeant-major took his horse nearer the 
lieutenant; he made no reply, but the expres- 
sion of his face said eloquently: "You know 
better than I! I'm concerned only with minor 

"We'll go there," the officer said irresolutely, 
putting away his binoculars and frowning as 
though he had a toothache. 

"We may run into them. Your Honour?" 

"We'll be careful." 

Prokhor Zykov kept close to Grigory. They 
rode cautiously down into the deserted street. 
Every window suggested an ambush, every 


open cellar door evoked a feeling of loneliness 
and sent a sickening shudder down the back. 
All eyes were drawn as though by magnets to 
the fences and ditches. They rode in like beasts 
of prey, like wolves approaching human habi- 
tations in the blue winter night-but the streets 
were empty. The silence was stupefying. From 
the open window of one house came the inno- 
cent sound of a clock striking. The chimes 
rang out like pistol shots, and Grigory saw the 
officer tremble and his hand flash to his re- 

There was not a soul in the village. The pa- 
trol forded the river. The water reached the 
horses' bellies, they entered willingly and tried 
to drink, but their riders pulled at the reins 
and urged them on. Grigory stared thirstily 
down at the turbid water, close yet inaccessi- 
ble; it drew him almost irresistibly. Had 
it been possible he would have jumped out 
of his saddle and lain without undressing 
with the stream murmuring over him until his 
sweating chest and back were shivering with 

From the rise beyond the village they saw 
a distant town: square blocks of houses, brick 
buildings, gardens, and church spires. The offi- 
cer rode to the top of the hill and put his 
binoculars to his eyes. 

28* 435 

"There they are," he shouted, the fingers of 
his left hand playing nervously. 

The sergeant-major rode to the sun-baked 
crest followed by the other Cossacks in single 
file, and stared. They saw tiny figures scurry- 
ing about the town. Wagons dammed up the 
side streets; horsemen were galloping to and 
fro. With eyes screwed up, gazing from under 
his palm, Grigory was able to distinguish even 
the grey, unfamiliar colour of the uniforms. 
Before the town stretched the brown lines of 
freshly-dug trenches, with men swarming about 

"What a lot of them!" Prokhor said with a 

The others, all gripped by the same feeling, 
were silent. Grigory listened to the quickening 
throb of his heart and realized that the feeling 
he was experiencing at the sight of these for- 
eigners was something quite different from what 
he had felt in the face of "the enemy" on ma- 

The sergeant-major drove the Cossacks hur- 
riedly back down the rise. The lieutenant made 
some pencil notes in his field notebook, and 
then beckoned to Grigory: 


Grigory dismounted and went to the officer, 
his legs feeling like stone after the long ride. 
The officer handed him a folded paper. 

"You've got the best horse. Deliver this to 
the regimental commander. At a gallop!" 

Grigory put the paper in his breast-pocket 
and went back to his horse, slipping his chin- 
strap under his chin as he went. The officer 
watched him until he had mounted, then 
glanced at his wrist-watch. 

The regiment had nearly reached the village 
of Korolyovka when Grigory rode up with the 
report. After reading it the colonel gave an 
order to his adjutant, who galloped off to the 
First Squadron. 

The Fourth Squadron streamed through Ko- 
rolyovka and, as quickly as though on the pa- 
rade ground, spread out in formation over the 
fields beyond. Lieutenant Semyonov rode up 
with his men. The horses tossed their heads 
to shake off the horse-flies, and there was a 
continual jingle of bridles. The noise of the 
First Squadron passing through the village 
sounded heavily in the midday silence. 

Junior Captain Polkovnikov rode on his pranc- 
ing horse to the front of the ranks. Gathering 
the reins tightly in one hand, he dropped the 
other to his sword-knot. Grigory held his 
breath and awaited the word of command. 


There was a rumble of hoofs on the left flank 
as the First Squadron got into position. 

The officer wrenched his sabre from its 
sheath; the blade gleamed like blue light. 

"Squadron!" He swung his sabre to the right, 
then to the left, and finally lowered it in front 
of him, holding it poised above the horse's 
ears. Grigory tried to think what the next order 
would be. "Lances at the ready! Sabres out! 
Into the attack . . . gallop!" The officer 
snapped, and gave his horse the rein. 

The earth groaned dully under the crushing 
impact of a thousand hoofs. Grigory, who was 
in the front ranks, had hardly brought his lance 
to the ready when his horse, carried away by 
a lashing flood of other horses, broke into a 
gallop and went off at full speed. Ahead of 
him the figure of the commanding officer bobbed 
up and down against the grey background 
of the field. A black wedge of ploughed land 
sped irresistibly towards him. The First Squad- 
ron raised a surging quivering shout, the 
Fourth Squadron took it up. The ground streaked 
past close under the horses' straining bel- 
lies. Through the roaring whistle in his ears 
Grigory caught the sound of distant firing. The 
first bullet whined high above them, furrowing 
the glassy vault of the sky. Grigory pressed 
the hot shaft of his lance against his side until 


it hurt him and his palm sweated. The whistle 
of flying bullets made him duck his head down 
to the wet neck of his horse, and the pungent 
scent of the animal's sweat penetrated his nos- 
trils. As though through the misty glass of 
binoculars he saw the brown ridges of trenches, 
and men in grey running back to the town. A 
machine-gun hurled a fan of whistling bullets 
tirelessly at the Cossacks; in front of them and 
under the horses' feet the bullets tore up 
woolly spurts of dust. 

The part of Grigory that before the attack 
had sent the blood coursing faster through his 
veins now turned to stone within him; he felt 
nothing except the ringing in his ears and a 
pain in the toes of his left foot. His thoughts, 
emasculated by fear, congealed in a heavy mass 
in his head. 

Cornet Lyakhovsky was the first to drop from 
his horse. Prokhor rode over him. Grigory 
glanced back, and a fragment of what he saw 
was impressed on his memory as though cut with 
a diamond on glass. As Prokhor's horse leaped 
over the fallen cornet, it bared its teeth and 
stumbled. Prokhor was catapulted out of the 
saddle and, falling headlong, was crushed un- 
der the hoofs of the horse behind him. Gri- 
gory heard no cry, but from Prokhor's face, 
with its distorted mouth and its calf-like eyes 


bulging out of their sockets, he realized that 
he must be screaming inhumanly. Others fell, 
both horses and Cossacks. Through the film of 
tears caused by the wind in his eyes Grigory 
stared ahead at the grey, seething mass of 
Austrians fleeing from the trenches. 

The squadron, which had torn away from the 
village in an orderly stream, now scattered and 
broke into fragments. Those in front, Grigory 
among them, had nearly reached the trenches, 
others were lagging behind. 

A tall, white-eyebrowed Austrian, his cap 
drawn over his eyes, fired almost point-blank 
at Grigory. The heat of the bullet scorched his 
cheek. He struck with his lance, at the same 
time pulling on the reins with all his strength. 
The blow was so powerful that it plunged for 
half a shaft length into the Austrian's body. 
Grigory was not quick enough to withdraw the 
lance. He felt a quivering convulsion in his 
hand, and saw the Austrian, bent right back 
so that only the point of his unshaven chin was 
visible, clutching the shaft and clawing at it 
with his nails. Grigory dropped the lance and 
felt with numbed fingers for his sabre-hilt. 

The Austrians fled into the streets of the 
town. Cossack horses reared up over the grey 
clots of their uniforms. 

In the first moment after dropping his lance 


Grigory, without knowing why, turned his 
horse and saw the sergeant-major gallop past 
him, his lips parted in a snarl. Grigory struck 
at his horse with the flat of his sabre; arching 
its neck, it carried him away down the street. 
An Austrian was running along by the rail- 
ings of a garden, swaying, without a rifle, his 
cap clutched in his hand. Grigory saw the back 
of his head and the damp collar of his tunic. 
He overtook him and, lashed on by the frenzy 
of the moment, whirled his sabre above his 
head. The Austrian was running close to the 
railings on the left-hand side, and it was awk- 
ward for Grigory to hew him down. But, lean- 
ing over his saddle, holding his sabre aslant, 
he struck at the man's temple. Without a cry 
the Austrian pressed his hand to the wound 
and spun around with his back to the railings. 
Grigory rode past reining in his horse, turned 
round, and rode back at a trot. The square fear- 
contorted face of the Austrian was black as 
cast iron. His arms hung at his sides, his ashen 
lips were quivering. The sabre had struck him 
a glancing blow on the temple, and the flesh 
was hanging over his cheek like a crimson rag. 
The blood streamed on to his uniform. Gri- 
gory's eyes met the terror-stricken eyes of the 
Austrian. The man was sagging at the knees; 
a gurgling groan came from his throat. Screw- 


ing up his eyes, Grigory swept his sabre down. 
The blow split the cranium in two. The man 
flung out his arms and fell; his shattered skull 
knocked heavily against the stone of the road. 
At the sound Grigory's horse reared and, snort- 
ing, carried him into the middle of the street. 

Ragged firing sounded in the streets. A foam- 
ing horse carried a dead Cossack past Gri- 
gory. One foot was caught in the stirrup, and 
the horse was dragging the bruised and bat- 
tered body over the stones. Grigory saw only 
the red stripe on the trousers and the torn 
green tunic drawn in a bundle over the head. 

Grigory felt a leaden heaviness in his head. 
He slipped from his horse and shook his head 
vigorously. Cossacks of the Third Squadron gal- 
loped by. A wounded man was carried past on 
a greatcoat. A crowd of Austrian prisoners were 
driven past at a trot. The men ran in a huddled 
grey herd, their iron-shod boots clattering 
joylessly on the stones. Grigory saw them as 
a jellied blob, the colour of clay. He dropped 
his horse's reins and went across to the Aus- 
trian soldier he had cut down. The man lay 
where he had fallen, by the fanciful wrought- 
iron work of the railings, his dirty brown palm 
stretched out as though begging. Grigory 
glanced at his face. It seemed small, almost 
childlike, despite the hanging moustache and the 


tortured expression (was it from physical suf- 
fering or a joyless past?) of the harsh, dis- 
torted mouth. 

"Hey, you!" a strange Cossack officer shout- 
ed as he rode down the middle of the street. 

Grigory looked up and stumbled across to 
his horse. His steps were heavy and tottering, 
as though he were carrying an unbearable 
weight on his back. Loathing and bewilder- 
ment crushed his spirit. He took the stirrup in 
his hand, but for a long time could not lift his 
heavy foot into it. 


The first reserve Cossacks from Tatarsky and 
the neighbouring villages spent the second 
night after their departure from home in a little 
village. The men from the lower end of Ta- 
tarsky drew into a separate group from those 
of the upper end, so Pyotr Melekhov, Anikush- 
ka, Christonya, Stepan Astakhov, Ivan Tomilin 
and others were all billeted in one house. The 
Cossacks had lain down to sleep, spreading 
out their blankets in the kitchen and the front 
room, and were having a last smoke for the 
night. The master of the house, a tall, decrepit 
old man who had served in the Turkish war, 
sat talking with them. 


"So you're off to war, soldiers?" 

"Yes, Grandad, off to war." 

"It won't be anything like the Turkish war 
was, I don't suppose. They've got different 
weapons now!" 

"It'll be just the same. Just as devilish. Just 
as they killed people then, so it'll be now," 
Tomilin grunted, angry with no one knew 

"That's stupid talk, young fellow. It'll be a 
different kind of war." 

" 'Course it will," Christonya affirmed, yawn- 
ing lazily, and stubbing out a cigarette with 
his finger-nail. 

"We'll do a bit of fighting," Pyotr Melekhov 
yawned and, making the sign of the cross over 
his mouth, covered his head with his greatcoat. 

"My sons, I ask you one thing. I ask you 
seriously, and you mark what I say," the old 
man said. "Remember this! If you want to come 
back from the mortal struggle alive and with 
a whole skin, you must keep the law of hu- 

"Which one?" Stepan Astakhov asked, smil- 
ing distrustfully. He had begun to smile again 
from the day he heard of the war. The war 
called him, and the general anxiety and pain 
assuaged his own. 

"This law: don't take other men's goods. 


That's one. As you fear God, don't do 
wrong to any woman. That's the second. And 
then you must know certain prayers." 

The Cossacks sat up, and all spoke at once: 

"More likely to lose our own stuff than get 
other people's!" 

"And why mustn't we touch a woman? You 
can't make her, but suppose she's willing?" 

"It's hard to be without a woman." 

"You bet!" 

"What about the prayer?" 

The old man fixed his eyes sternly on them 
and answered: 

"You must not touch a woman. Never! If 
you can't restrain yourselves you'll lose your 
heads, or you'll be wounded. You'll be sorry 
after, but then it will be too late. I'll tell you 
the prayers. I went right through the Turkish 
war, death at my heels like a saddle-bag, but 
I came through alive because of these prayers." 

He went into the other room, rummaged 
under the icon and brought back a crumbling, 
faded scrap of paper. 

"Get up now and write them down !" he com- 
manded. "You'll be off again before cock-crow 
tomorrow, won't you?" 

He spread the paper out on the table and left 
it. Anikushka was the first to get up; the shad- 
ows cast by the flickering light played on his 


smooth, womanish face. All except Stepan sat 
down and wrote out the prayers. Anikushka 
rolled up the paper he had used and fastened 
it to the string of the crucifix at his breast. Ste- 
pan jeered at him: 

"That's a nice nest you've made for the lice, 
wasn't the cross cosy enough?" 

"Young man, if you don't believe, hold your 
tongue!" the old man interrupted him sternly. 
"Don't be a stumbling block to others and don't 
laugh at faith. It's a sin." 

Stepan grinned, but he lapsed into silence. 

The prayers which the Cossacks wrote down 
were three, one could take one's choice. 


God bless us. On the mountain there lies a white stone 
like a horse. As water enters not the stone, so may not 
bullet and arrow enter into me, the slave of God, nor 
my comrades, nor my horse. As the hammer flies back 
from the anvil, so may the bullet fly back from me. As 
millstones turn, so may the arrow turn and not touch me. 
As the sun and moon are bright, so may I, the slave of 
God, be strong. Behind this mountain there is a fortress, 
I shall lock this fortress, and throw the key into the sea. 
I shall put it under the white stone called Altor which 
can be seen by neither sorcerers nor witches, by neither 
monks nor nuns. Even as the waters flow not from the 
ocean and the yellow grains of sand cannot be counted, so 
may I, the slave of God, suffer no harm. In the name of 
the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen. 



There is a great ocean, and in this great ocean there 
is a white stone, Altor. On that stone there is a stone 
man of mighty stature. Cover me, the slave of God, and 
my comrades, with stone from east to west, from earth 
to sky. Protect me from sharp sabre and sword; from 
steel blade and bear-spear; from dagger tempered and 
untempered; from knife and axe, and from cannon-fire; 
from lead bullets and mortal weapons; from all arrows 
feathered with the feathers of eagles, swans, geese, cranes, 
or ravens; from all battles with Turks, Crimeans, Austri- 
ans, Tatars, Lithuanians, Germans and Kalmyks. Holy 
Fathers and Heavenly Powers, protect me, the slave of 
God. Amen. 


Supreme Ruler, Holy Mother of God and our Lord 
Jesus Christ. Bless, Lord, thy servant entering battle, and 
my comrades who are with me. Wrap them in cloud, with 
thy heavenly, stony hail protect them. Holy Dmitry of Sa- 
lonica, defend me, the slave of God, and my comrades on 
all four sides; suffer not evil men to shoot, nor with spear 
to pierce, nor with pole-axe to strike, nor with butt-end 
of axe to sm.ite, nor with axe to hew down, nor with 
sword to cut down or pierce, nor with knife to stab or 
cut; neither old nor young, neither brown nor black; 
neither heretic nor sorcerer, nor any magic-worker. All 
is before me now, the slave of God, orphaned and judged. 
In the sea, in the ocean, on the island of Buyan stands an 
iron post; on the post is an iron man resting on an iron 
staff, and he biddeth iron, steel, lead, zinc and all manner 
of bolt: "Go, iron, into your mother-earth away from the 
slave of God and past my comrades and my horse. The 


arrow-shafts into the forest, and the feather to its mother- 
bird, and the glue to the fish." Defend me, the slave of 
God, with a golden buckler from steel and from bullet, 
from cannon-fire and ball, from spear and knife. May my 
body be stronger than armour. Amen. 

The Cossacks concealed the prayers under 
their shirts, tying them to the little icons with 
which their mothers had blessed them, and to 
the little bundles of their native earth. But 
death came upon all alike, upon those who did 
not carry prayers and upon those who did. 
Their bodies rotted on the fields of Galicia and 
East Prussia, in the Carpathians and Rumania, 
wherever the ruddy flames of war flickered and 
the hoof-marks of Cossack horses were imprint- 
ed on the earth. 


It was usual for the Cossacks of the upper 
stanitsas of the Don, including Vyeshenskaya, 
to be drafted into the Eleventh and Twelfth 
Cossack regiments and the Ataman's Life- 
guards. But for some reason part of the enrol- 
ment of 1914 was assigned to the Third Don 
Cossack Regiment, which was composed main- 
ly of Cossacks from the Ust-Medveditskaya 
stanitsa. Among those so drafted was Mitka 


The Third Don Cossack Regiment was sta- 
tioned at Vilno, together with certain units of 
the Third Cavalry Division. One day in June 
the various squadrons rode out from the city 
to take up country quarters. 

The day was dull but warm. The flowing 
clouds herded together in the sky and concealed 
the sun. The regiment was marching in col- 
umn of route. The regimental band blared at 
the head of the column, and the officers in their 
light summer caps and drill uniforms rode in 
a bunch at the back, a cloud of cigarette smoke 
rising above them. 

On each side of the road the peasants and 
their gaily-dressed womenfolk were cutting the 
hay, stopping to gaze at the columns of Cos- 
sacks as they passed. The horses sweated in 
the heat, a yellowish foam appeared between 
their legs, and the light breeze blowing from 
the south-east did not cool, but rather intensi- 
fied the steaming swelter. 

They had gone about half way and were not 
far from a small village when a young year- 
ling colt trotted out from behind a fence and, 
seeing the great mass of horses, whinnied and 
came prancing up in front of the Fifth Squad- 
ron. Its bushy young tail waved to one side 
and the dust from its shapely hoofs scattered 
on the trampled grass. It pranced up to the First 

29—1933 449 

Troop and poked its muzzle stupidly into the 
groin of the sergeant-major's stallion. The stal- 
lion jibbed but took pity on the youngster and 
did not kick. 

"Out of the way, daft-head!" the sergeant- 
major shouted, waving his whip. But the colt 
looked so friendly and homely that the other 
Cossacks laughed. Then something unexpected 
happened. The colt cheekily pushed its way in 
between the ranks and the platoon broke up 
and lost its neat formation. The horses jibbed 
and refused to obey their riders. Squeezing be- 
tween them, the colt tried to bite the horse next 
to it. 

Up galloped the squadron commander: 

"What's going on here?" 

The horses were snorting and casting side- 
long glances at the scatter-brained young colt 
while the grinning Cossacks tried to drive it 
off with their whips. The troop was in com- 
plete disorder with others pressing up from be- 
hind, and the furious troop officer could be seen 
galloping up from the rear of the column. 

"What's all this?" boomed the squadron com- 
mander, steering his horse into the thick of the 

"It's a colt. . . ." 

"He's got between us." 

"You can't get rid of him, the devil!" 


"Give him the whip, don't pamper him!" 

Grinning sheepishly, the Cossacks tried to 
hold in their excited mounts. 

"Sergeant-major! Squadron commander, what 
the devil is happening? Get your troops in 
order! I've never heard of such a thing!" 

The squadron commander retired from the 
confusion and his horse's hindlegs slipped into 
the roadside ditch. He spurred it on and the 
horse scrambled out on to a bank overgrown 
with goosefoot and yellow daisies. In the dis- 
tance the party of officers had stopped. The lieu- 
tenant-colonel had his head thrown back and 
was drinking from a flask, his hand resting 
with fatherly affection on his saddle pommel. 

The sergeant-major broke up the troop and, 
swearing furiously, drove the colt off the road. 
The troop formed up again and a hundred and 
fifty pairs of eyes watched the sergeant-major 
standing in his stirrups as he chased after the 
colt. But the colt kept stopping and edging 
up to the sergeant-major's giant stallion, then 
prancing away so that the sergeant-major could 
not land a single blow, except on its brush-like 
tail, which fell under the lash only to rise again 
the next moment and wave bravely in the wind. 

The whole squadron laughed, including the 
officers. Even the captain's gloomy face 
twisted into a crooked semblance of a smile. 

29* 451 

Mitka Korshunov was riding in the third 
rank of the leading troop with Mikhail Ivan- 
kov and Kozma Kruchkov, both from stanitsas 
on the Don. Ivankov, broad in the shoulders 
and face, kept silent, and Kruchkov, a slightly 
pock-marked, round-shouldered Cossack, known 
as "the camel," constantly found fault with 
Mitka. Kruchkov was an "old" Cossack, 
that is, a Cossack in his last year of service, 
and according to the unwritten rules of the 
regiment, shared with all other "old" Cossacks 
the right of chasing up the youngsters, order- 
ing them about and giving them "stripes" for 
every petty offence. The established punish- 
ment for a Cossack of the 1913 draft was thir- 
teen "stripes" and for a Cossack drafted in 
1914, fourteen "stripes." The sergeants and 
officers encouraged this system on the ground 
that it imbued a Cossack with respect not only 
for rank but for age as well. 

Kruchkov, who had recently been made a 
corporal, sat hunched in his saddle like a bird. 
He screwed up his eyes at a paunchy grey cloud 
and, imitating the accent of the squadron com- 
mander Captain Popov, asked Mitka: 

"Ah . . . te-e-11 me, Korshunov, what do we 
ca-a-all our squadron comma-a-ander?" 

Mitka, who had frequently had a taste of the 


strap for his obstinacy and dislike of obedi- 
ence, put on a respectful expression. 

"Captain Popov, corporal!" 


"Captain Popov, corporal!" 

"That's not what I want to know. You tell 
me what we, Cossacks, call him 'mongst our- 

Ivankov gave Mitka a cautioning wink and 
grinned widely. Mitka glanced round and sav. 
the captain riding up behind. 

"Now then, answer up!" 

"He is called Captain Popov, corporal." 

"Fourteen stripes for you. Answer me, you 
young bastard!" 

"I don't know, corporal." 

"When we get to camp," Kruchkov said, 
speaking in his normal voice. "I'll belt the hide 
off you. Answer my question!" 

"I don't know." 

"Don't you know the nickname we've got for 
him, rat-face?" 

Mitka heard the furtive tread of the cap- 
tain's horse behind them and remained silent. 

"Well?" Kruchkov scowled furiously. 

A restrained titter broke out in the rear 
ranks. Not realizing what the laughter was 
about, and thinking that the Cossacks were 
laughing at him, Kruchkov snarled: 


"Be careful, Korshunov! I'll give you fifty 
of the best when we get to camp!" 

Mitka shrugged resignedly. 

"Black goose." 

"That's it." 

"Kruchkov!" came a voice from behind. 

Corporal Kruchkov, the "old" Cossack, start- 
ed in his saddle and sat at attention. 

"What's your game, scoundrel?" burst 
out the captain, drawing level with Kruch- 
kov. "What are you teaching this young 

Kruchkov blinked. A purple flush flooded 
his cheeks. Laughter came from the rear 

"Who did I teach a lesson to last year? Who 
did I break this nail on?" The captain held 
the long pointed nail of his little finger under 
Kruchkov's nose. "Never let rne hear that again! 
Understand, my man?" 

"Yes, Your Honour." 

The captain backed out of line and let the 
squadron go past. 

Kruchkov straightened his shoulder-strap and 
glanced round at the receding figure of the cap- 
tain. Adjusting his lance, he shook his head 

"Where did he spring from, the old goose?" 

Perspiring with laughter, Ivankov told him: 


"He was riding behind us. He heard every- 
thing. Must have guessed what you'd be talk- 
ing about." 

"You should have given me a wink, block- 

"Should I?" 

"Think you shouldn't, eh? Fourteen of the 

On arriving at its destination, the regiment 
was broken up by squadrons among the estates 
in the district. During the day the Cossacks 
cut the clover and meadow grass for the land- 
owners; at night they grazed their hobbled 
horses in the fields assigned to them, and played 
cards or told stories by the smoke of the camp- 
fires. The Sixth Squadron was billeted on the 
large estate of a Polish landowner. The officers 
lived in the house, played cards, got drunk, 
and paid attention to the steward's daughter; 
the Cossacks pitched their tents a couple of 
versts away from the house. Each morning the 
steward drove out in a drozhki to their camp. 
The corpulent, estimable gentleman would get 
out of the drozhki and invariably welcome the 
Cossacks with a wave of his white, glossy- 
peaked cap. 

"Come and cut hay with us, sir; it'll shake 
your fat down a bit," the Cossacks called to him. 
The steward smiled phlegmatically, wiped his 


bald head with his handkerchief, and went with 
the sergeant-major to point out the next section 
of hay to be cut. 

At midday the field-kitchen arrived. The Cos- 
sacks washed and went to get their food. 

They ate in silence, but in the rest period 
after dinner made up for their lack of conver- 

"Rotten stuff, the grass here. Don't compare 
with the steppe." 

"Not much quitch though." 

"They've finished mowing by now back 

"Will be finished soon. New moon yesterday, 
there'll be rain." 

"That Pole's a mean old beggar. Might have 
stood us a bottle for our pains." 

"Ho-ho! He'd rob the altar to get a bottle 

"See, lads, what do you make of that? The 
more a man's got, the more he wants, eh?" 

"Ask the tsar about that." 

"Who's seen the master's daughter?" 

"What about her?" 

"There's a wench with plenty of meat on 

"Aye. . . ." 

"Don't know how true it is, but they say 
she's had proposals from the royal family," 


"A juicy bit like her wouldn't go to a com- 
mon man, would it?" 

"I've heard a rumour, lads, that there's going 
to be a big review for us soon." 

"What did I say, if a cat's got nothing to do, 
he'll. . . ." 

"Put a sock in it, Taras!" 

"Give us a puff of your fag, boy?" 

"You scrounging devil, you've got an arm 
as long as a beggar's at the church door." 

"Look, lads, old Fedot can pull all right." 

"He's smoked it to ash already." 

"Look again, man, it's as fiery as a woman." 

They lay on their bellies, smoking. Their bare 
backs were scorched red in the sun. In a corner 
of the field about five "old" Cossacks were 
questioning a new recruit: 

"Where d'ye come from?" 


"From the salt mines, eh?" 

"Yes, corporal." 

"How do they cart salt down your way?" 

Not far off, Kruchkov lay on a horse-cloth, 
idly twisting his scanty moustache round his 

"With horses." 

"And what else?" 

"Bullocks, corporal." 

"And how do they bring fish from the Crimea? 


You know, kind of bullock, with humps on 
their backs, eat thistles. What are they called?" 


"Haw-haw-haw \" 

Kruchkov got up lazily and walked towards 
the guilty recruit, hunching his camel-like 
shoulders and stretching out his saffron-swarthy 
neck with its big Adam's apple. 

"Bend over!" he commanded, taking off his 

In the hot dusk of the June evening the Cos- 
sacks sang around the camp-fires: 

A Cossack went to a distant land. 
Riding his horse o'er the plain; 
His native village he left for aye; 

A silvery tenor voice sobbed mournfully, 
while the basses expressed deep, velvety sorrow: 

He'll n'er come hack again. 

Now the tenor rose to a higher pitch of grief: 

In vain did his youthful Cossack bride 
Gaze northwards every morn and eve; 
Waiting in hope that her Cossack dear 
Would return from the land he ne'er will 


Many voices tended the song, and it grew 
rich and heady like home-brewed beer; 


But beyond the hills where the snow lies 

The ice-fields crack and the tempests blow. 
Where grimly how the pines and firs 
The Cossack's hones lie beneath the snow. 

The voices told their simple tale of Cossack 
life and the tenor supported them with its quiv- 
ering notes, like a skylark soaring above the 
thawed earth of April: 

As the Cossack lay dying he pleaded and 

That above him a mound be piled on his 

Where a giielder-tree from his native land 
Its blossoms bright should for ever wave. 

At another camp-fire, the group was smaller 
and the song was in a different strain: 

From the stormy Azov Sea, 
The ships are sailing up the Don, 
For back to his own country 
A young ataman has come. 

At yet another, the squadron's story-teller, 
coughing from the smoke, was spinning tales. 
The Cossacks listened with unflagging atten- 
tion. Only occasionally, when the hero of the 
story cleverly escaped from a plot laid against 


him by the evil spirit, did someone's hand 
gleam white in the fire-light as it was slapped 
against the leg of his boot, or a thick smoky 
voice gasp delighted approval. Then the flow- 
ing, unbroken tones of the story-teller would 

A week or so after the regiment's arrival at 
its country quarters the squadron commander 
sent for the smith and the sergeant-major. 

"What condition are the horses in?" 

"Not so bad. Your Honour, in pretty good 

The captain twisted the black moustache that 
had earned him his nickname and said in his 
rasping voice: 

"The regimental commander has issued in- 
structions for all stirrups and bits to be tinned. 
There is to be an imperial review of the regi- 
ment. Let everything be polished until it gleams, 
the saddles and the rest of the equipment. 
The Cossacks must be a sight to gladden the 
eye. When can you be ready?" 

The sergeant-major looked at the smith; the 
smith looked at the sergeant-major. Then both 
of them looked at the captain. The sergeant- 
major suggested: 

"How about Sunday, Your Honour?" and 
respectfully touched the tip of his tobacco- 
mouldered moustache with his finger, 


"Mind it is Sunday!" the captain added 
threateningly and dismissed them both. 

The preparations for the review were put 
in hand the same day. Ivankov, son of the squad- 
ron blacksmith and a good smith himself, 
helped to tin the stirrups and bits. The Cos- 
sacks groomed their horses, cleaned the bri- 
dles, and rubbed the snaffles and other metal 
parts of the horses' equipment with bath-brick. 
By the end of the week the regiment was shin- 
ing like a new twenty-kopeck piece. Everything 
glittered with polishing, from the horses' hoofs 
to the Cossacks' faces. On the Saturday the 
regimental commander inspected the regiment 
and thanked the officers and Cossacks for their 
zealous preparations and splendid appear- 

The azure thread of July days reeled past. 
The Cossack horses were in perfect condition; 
only the Cossacks themselves were uneasy and 
troubled with the maggot of uncertainty. Not 
a whisper was to be heard of the imperial re- 
view. The week passed in unending talk, con- 
tinual preparation. Then like a bolt from the 
blue came an order for the regiment to return 
to Vilno. 

They were back in the city by evening. A 
second order was at once issued to the squad- 
rons. The Cossacks' boxes were to be collected 


and stored in the warehouse, and preparations 
made for a possible further removal. 

"Your Honour, what's it all about?" the Cos- 
sacks implored their troop officers for the truth. 
The officers shrugged their shoulders. They 
themselves would have given a lot to know it. 

"I don't know." 

"Will there be manoeuvres in the presence 
of His Majesty?" 

"No one has any idea yet." 

But on the first of August the regimental 
commander's orderly managed to whisper to a 

"It's war, my boy!" 

"You're lying!" 

"God's truth! But not a word to anyone!" 

Next morning the regiment was drawn up 
in squadrons outside the barracks, awaiting the 

At the head of the Sixth Squadron rode Cap- 
tain Popov on a fine mount. His left hand, im- 
maculately gloved, held the bridle. The horse, 
arching its neck, rubbed its muzzle on the cord- 
ed muscles of its chest. 

The colonel came round a corner of the bar- 
rack buildings and, riding his horse to the front 
of the regiment, turned the animal sideways. 
The adjutant, elegantly extending his little fin- 
ger, drew out his handkerchief to wipe his 


nose, but had no time to accomplish the oper- 
ation. The colonel threw his voice into the tense 


"Now it's coming!" everyone thought. The 
tension held them like a steel spring. Mitka 
Korshunov's horse was stepping from hoof to 
hoof, and he irritatedly brought his heel against 
its flank. Beside him Ivankov sat his horse 
motionlessly, listening with his hare-lipped 
mouth open, exposing a dark line of uneven 
teeth. Kruchkov was behind him, hunching his 
shoulders and frowning, further on Lapin 
twitched his gristly ears like a horse, while be- 
hind him could be seen the jagged outline of 
Shchegolkov's clean-shaven Adam's apple. 

"Germany has declared war on us. . . ." 

Along the ranks ran a whisper as though a 
puff of wind had rippled across a field of ripe, 
heavy-eared oats. A horse's neigh slashed 
through it. Round eyes and gaping mouths 
turned in the direction of the First Squadron 
where the animal had dared to neigh. 

The colonel said much more. He chose his 
words carefully, seeking to arouse a feeling of 
national pride. But the picture that rose before 
the thousand Cossacks was not of silken foreign 
banners falling rustling at their feet, but of their 
own everyday life thrown into confusion, of 


their wives, children, sweethearts, of ungath- 
ered grain, and orphaned villages in distress. 

"In two hours we entrain . . ." was the only 
thought that penetrated all minds. 

The officers' wives, who were standing in 
a bunch not far away, wept into their handker- 
chiefs. Lieutenant Khoprov had almost to carry 
away in his arms his blonde pregnant Polish 

The regiment rode singing to the station. The 
Cossacks' voices drowned the band, and it 
lapsed into confused silence. The officers' wives 
rode in drozhkis, a colourful crowd foamed 
along the pavements, the horses' hoofs raised 
a cloud of dust. Laughing at his own and 
others' sorrow, twitching his left shoulder so 
that his blue shoulder-strap tossed hectically, 
the leading singer struck up a bawdy Cossack 
song. Deliberately running the words into one 
another, to the accompaniment of newly shod 
hoofs the squadron carried its song along to 
the red trucks at the station. The adjutant, his 
face purple with laughter and embarrassment, 
galloped up to the singers. One of the Cossacks 
winked cynically at the crowd of women see- 
ing them off, and it was not sweat but a 
bitter brew of wormwood that streamed 
down his bronzed cheeks to the black tips of 
his mouth. 


On the track the engine gave a warning bel- 
low as it got up steam. 

Trains. . . . Trains. . . . Trains innumerable. 

Along the country's arteries, over the rail- 
way lines to the western frontier, a seething, 
distracted Russia was pumping its grey-coated 


At a little town on the line the regiment was 
broken up into its respective squadrons. On the 
instructions of the divisional staff the Sixth 
Squadron was put at the disposal of the Third 
Army Infantry Corps, and proceeded to Pelika- 

The border was still guarded by frontier 
troops. New infantry and cavalry units were 
being moved up. On July 27th the squadron 
commander sent for the sergeant-major and a 
Cossack named Astakhov, from the First Troop. 
Astakhov returned to the troop late in the af- 
ternoon, just as Mitka Korshunov was bringing 
his horse back after watering. 

"Is that you, Astakhov?" he called. 

"Yes, it's me. Where's Kruchkov and the 

"Over there, in the hut." 

Astakhov, a massive, swarthy Cossack, came 
into the hut screwing up his eyes as if he could 

30—1933 465 

not see. At the table Shchegolkov was mend- 
ing a broken rein by the light of a wick-lamp. 
Kruchkov was standing by the stove with his 
hands behind him, winking at Ivankov and 
pointing to the owner of the hut, a Pole, who 
lay on his bed, swollen with dropsy. 

A joke had just passed between them, and 
Ivankov's cheek was still twitching with laugh- 

"Tomorrow, lads, we go out at daybreak to 
an outpost at Lyubov." 

"Who's going?" Mitka inquired, entering at 
that moment and setting the pitcher down at 
the door. 

"Shchegolkov, Kruchkov, Rvachev, Popov 
and Ivankov." 

"And what about me?" 

"You stay here, Mitka." 

"Well, then the devil take the lot of you!" 

Kruchkov wrenched himself away from the 
stove and, stretching himself till his bones 
cracked, asked the host: "How far is it to this 

"Four versts." 

"It's quite near," said Astakhov and, sitting 
down on a bench, took off his boot. "Where 
could I hang up a foot-cloth to di-y?" 

They set out at dawn. At the end of the vil- 


lage a bare-footed girl was drawing water from 
a well. Kruchkov reined in his horse. 

"Give us a drink, lass!" 

Holding up her homespun skirt, the girl 
splashed through a puddle with her bare feet. 
Her grey eyes smiling from under their thick 
lashes, she held out the bucket. Kruchkov 
drank, gripping the heavy bucket by the rim, 
his hand trembling with the weight of it; the 
water dripped and splashed on to the red 
stripes of his trousers. 

"Christ save you, grey eyes!" 

"The Lord be praised." 

She took the bucket and stepped away, glanc- 
ing round and smiling. 

"What are you grinning at? Come for a ride!" 

Kruchkov shifted in his saddle as if to make 
room for her. 

"Get moving!" Astakhov shouted, riding 

Rvachev grinned at Kruchkov: 

"Can't take your eyes off her, eh?" 

"Her legs are pink as a pigeon's," Kruchkov 
said with a laugh, and they all looked round, 
as if by word of command. 

The girl bent over the well, showing the cleft 
of her bottom under her tight skirt, and the 
pink calves of her parted legs. 

"If only we could marry," Popov sighed. 

30* 467 

"Suppose I marry you with my whip," As- 
takhov suggested. 

"That won't help. . . ." 

"Want it as bad as that, do you?" 

"We'll have to get hold of him and do him 
up like a bull." 

The Cossacks cantered on, laughing among 
themselves. After riding steadily for some time, 
they topped a rise and saw the large village 
of Lyubov lying stretched along a river valley. 
The sun was rising behind them. Close by, a 
lark sang lustily, perched on a telegraph pole. 

Astakhov, who had been put in charge of the 
group because he had just finished a section 
commander's course, chose the last farm in the 
village for their observation post, as it was 
nearest to the frontier. The master of the farm, 
a clean-shaven, bandy-legged Pole in a white 
felt hat, showed the Cossacks a shed in which 
they could stable their horses. Behind the shed 
was a green field of clover. Slopes rolled away 
to a neighbouring wood, and a white stretch 
of grain was intersected by a road, grassland 
lying beyond. They took turns to watch with 
binoculars from the ditch behind the shed. The 
others lay in the cool shed, which smelled of 
long-stored grain, dusty chaff, mice, and the 
sweetish, mouldering scent of damp earth. 

Ivankov made himself comfortable in a dark 


comer beside a plough and slept till evening. 
At sunset Kruchkov came to him and taking 
a pinch of skin on Ivankov's neck between his 
fingers said gently: 

"Sleeping well on army grub, you hog! Get 
up and go and keep watch on the Germans!" 

"Stop fooling, Kozma!" 

"Up you get!" 

"Stop it, will you! I'm just getting up." 

He scrambled to his feet, his face red and 
puffy, worked his head from side to side on 
the stumpy neck that held it firmly to his broad 
shoulders, sniffed (he had caught cold from 
lying on the damp earth), adjusted his cartridge 
belt and went out of the shed, dragging his 
rifle by its sling. He relieved Shchegolkov, who 
had been on duty all the afternoon, and adjust- 
ing the binoculars, stared in the direction of 
the north-west, towards the wood. 

He could see the snowy stretch of grain wav- 
ing in the wind, and a ruddy flood of sunlight 
bathing the green headland of fir wood. Chil- 
dren were splashing and shouting in the stream 
that lay in a fine blue curve beyond the village. 
A woman's contralto voice called: "Stassya, 
Stassya! Come here!" 

Shchegolkov lit a cigarette, and remarked as 
he went back to the shed: "Look at the glow 
of that sunset! We'll be having some wind." 


"Reckon so," Ivankov agreed. 

That night the horses stood unsaddled. In 
the village all lights were extinguished and all 
sound died away. 

The next morning Kruchkov called Ivankov 
from the shed. 

"Let's go to town." 

"What for?" 

"We can get something to eat and have a 
drink there." 

"Can we?" Ivankov looked doubtful. 

"Sure we can. I asked our host. It's over there 
in that house. See the tiled roof?" Kruchkov 
pointed with his black-nailed finger. "The 
Sheeny over there has beer. Let's go." 

They started out. Astakhov called after them: 

"Where are you going?" 

Kruchkov, who was senior in rank to Asta- 
khov, waved him aside. 

"We'll be back soon," 

"Come back, lads!" 

"Stop barking!" 

An old Jew with a wrinkled eyelid and long 
side-curls bowed them in. 

"Got any beer?" 

"None left. Mister Cossack." 

"We'll pay for it." 

"Jesus-Maria, as if I . . , Mister Cossack, be- 
lieve an honest Jew, I have no more beer!" 


"You're lying. Sheeny!" 

"Mister Cossack, I'm telling you. . . ." 

"Look here," Kruchkov vexedly interrupted, 
pulling a shabby purse from his trouser pocket. 
"Get us some beer or I'll get angry." 

The Jew pressed the coin between his palm 
and little finger, lowered his twisted lid and 
went into the passage. 

A minute later he brought a bottle of vodka, 
damp and plastered with barley-chaff. 

"And you told us you didn't have any! You 

"I said I had no beer." 

"Get us something to eat." 

Kruchkov slapped the bottom of the bottle to 
knock out the cork, and poured himself a cup 
of vodka. 

They went out half drunk. Kruchkov pranced 
along, shaking his fist at the black empty 
sockets of the windows. 

In the shed, Astakhov was yawning. Behind 
the wall horses were munching damp hay. 

The day passed in idleness. In the afternoon 
Popov was sent back to the squadron with 
a report. 

Evening. Night. The yellow rim of the young 
moon rose over the village. From time to time 
a ripe apple dropped with a soft squelching 
thud from the tree in the garden. 


About midnight, while Ivankov was on guard, 
he heard the sound of horses along the vil- 
lage street. He crawled out of the ditch to look, 
but the moon was swathed in cloud, and he 
could see nothing through the impenetrable 
darkness. He went and awoke Kruchkov, who 
was sleeping at the door. 

"Kozma! Horsemen coming! Get up!" 

"Where from?" 

"They're riding into the village." 

They went out. The clatter of hoofs came 
clearly from the street, some hundred yards 

"Let's go into the garden. We can hear better 

They ran past the hut into the tiny front gar- 
den, and dropped down by the fence. The jin- 
gle of stirrups and creak of saddles came near- 
er. Now they could see the dim outline of the 
horsemen riding four abreast. 

"Who goes there?" 

"And what do you want?" a voice answered 
in Russian from the leading rank. 

"Who goes there? I shall fire!" Kruchkov 
rattled the bolt of his rifle. 

One of the riders reined in his horse and 
turned it towards the fence. 

"We're the frontier guard," he said. "Are 
you an outpost?" 



"What regiment?" 

"The Third Cossack. . . ." 

"Who are you talking to there, Trishin?" 
a voice called out of the darkness. The man by 
the fence replied: 

"There's a Cossack outpost stationed here. 
Your Honour." 

A second horseman rode up to the fence. 

"Hullo there, Cossacks!" 

"Hullo," Ivankov answered guardedly. 

"Have you been here long?" 

"Since yesterday." 

The second rider struck a match and lighted 
a cigarette. By the momentary gleam Kruchkov 
saw an officer of the frontier guard. 

"Our regiment is being withdrawn," the officer 
said. "You must bear well in mind that you're 
now the farthest outpost. The enemy may ad- 
vance tomorrow." He turned and gave the or- 
der for his men to ride on. 

"Where are you making for. Your Honour?" 
Kruchkov asked, keeping his finger on the 

"We are to link up with our squadron two 
versts from here. Come on, lads, let's move. 
Good luck, Cossacks!" 

"Good luck." 

At that moment the wind pitilessly tore the 


apron of cloud from the moon, and over the 
village, the gardens, the steep roof of the hut 
and the detachment of frontier guards riding 
up the hill, fell a flood of deathly yellow light. 

Next morning Rvachev rode back to the 
squadron with a report. During the night the 
horses had stood saddled. The Cossacks were 
alarmed by the thought that they were now 
left to confront the enemy. They had experi- 
enced no feeling of isolation and loneliness so 
long as they knew the frontier guard was ahead 
of them, but the news that the frontier was 
open had had a marked effect upon them. 

Astakhov had a talk with the Polish farmer, 
and for a small sum the man agreed to let them 
cut clover for their horses. The Pole's meadow 
lay not far from the shed. Astakhov sent Ivan- 
kov and Shchegolkov to mow. Shchegolkov 
mowed while Ivankov raked the dank, heavy 
grass together and tied it into bundles. 

As they were thus occupied, Astakhov, who 
was gazing through the binoculars along the 
road leading to the frontier, noticed a boy run- 
ning across the fields from the south-west. The 
lad ran down the hill like a brown hare; when 
still some distance off he shouted and waved 
the long sleeve of his coat. He ran up to Asta- 
khov, gasping for breath and rolling his eyes, 
and panted: 


"Cossack! Cossack! The Germans! The Ger- 
mans are coming!" 

He pointed with his hand. Holding the binoc- 
ulars to his eyes, Astakhov saw a distant 
bunch of horsemen. Without removing the 
binoculars he shouted: 


Kruchkov appeared from the shed, looking 

"Run and call the lads. A German patrol 
is coming!" 

He heard Kruchkov dash away and now he 
could clearly see the group of horsemen flow- 
ing along beyond the greyish streak of grass- 
land. He could even make out the bay colour 
of their horses and the dark-blue tint of their 
uniforms. There were over twenty of them, and 
they were riding in a compact mass, coming 
from the south-west, whereas he had been ex- 
pecting them from the north-west. They crossed 
the road and struck along the ridge above the 
valley in which the village lay. 

Breathing hard, the tip of his tongue show- 
ing between his tight-pressed lips, Ivankov was 
stuffing an armful of grass into a forage sack. 
The bandy-legged Pole stood near by, sucking 
a pipe. With his hands tucked into his belt he 
stared from under the brim of his hat at Shche- 
golkov, who was mowing. 


"Call this a scythe?" Shchegolkov grumbled, 
wielding the toy-like blade fiercely. "Do you 
mow with it?" 

"I mow," the Pole replied and took one fin- 
ger out of his belt. 

"This scythe of yours is just about big enough 
to mow a woman in the right place!" 

"Uh-huh," the Pole agreed. 

Ivankov giggled. He was about to say some- 
thing but, looking round, saw Kruchkov run- 
ning across the rough ploughland with his hand 
on his sabre. 

"Drop it!" he shouted as he came up. 

"Now what's the matter?" Shchegolkov asked, 
thrusting the point of the scythe into the ground, 

"The Germans!" 

Ivankov threw down the bundle of grass. 
The Pole, bending double as if bullets were al- 
ready whistling over his head, ran off to the 

They had just reached the shed and jumped 
on their horses when they saw a company of 
Russian soldiers entering the village from the 
direction of Pelikaliye. The Cossacks galloped 
to meet them. Astakhov reported to the com- 
pany commander that a German detachment 
was making its way round the village by way 
of the hill. The captain inspected the dust- 
sprinkled toes of his boots severely and asked: 


"How many are there?" 

"More than twenty." 

"Cut them off and we'll fire on them from 
here." He turned to his company, ordered them 
to form up and led them away at a rapid 

When the Cossacks reached the crest of the 
hill the Germans were already between them 
and the town of Pelikaliye. They were riding at 
a trot, led by an officer on a dock-tailed roan. 

"After them! We'll drive them along to our 
second outpost," Astakhov ordered. 

The mounted frontier guard who had joined 
up with them in the village lagged behind. 

"What's up? Leaving us, brother?" Astakhov 
shouted, turning in his saddle. 

The frontier guard waved carelessly and 
rode down into the village at a walking pace. 
The Cossacks put their horses into a swift 
trot. The blue uniforms of the German dragoons 
were clearly visible. They had caught sight of 
the Cossacks following them, and were canter- 
ing in the direction of the second Russian out- 
post, which was stationed at a farm some three 
versts back from the village of Lyubov. The 
distance between the two parties perceptibly 

"We'll fire at them!" Astakhov shouted, 
jumping from his saddle. 


Standing with the reins looped over their 
arms, the Cossacks fired. Ivankov's horse 
reared at the shot and sent him headlong. As 
he fell he saw one of the Germans first lean to 
one side, then, throwing out his arms, sudden- 
ly tumble from his saddle. The others did not 
stop or even unsling their carbines from their 
shoulders, but rode on at a gallop in open for- 
mation. The pennants on their lances fluttered 
in the wind. Astakhov was the first to re- 
mount his horse. The Cossacks plied their 
whips. The Germans swung to the left, and the 
Cossacks following them passed close to the 
fallen dragoon. Beyond, an undulating stretch 
of country was intersected with shallow ravines. 
As the Germans rode up the farther side of 
each ravine the Cossacks dismounted and sent 
shots after them. A little farther on another 
German went down. 

"Our Cossacks should be coming from that 
farm in a minute. That's the second outpost," 
Astakhov muttered, thrusting a cartridge clip 
into the magazine of his rifle with his tobacco- 
stained finger. The Germans broke into a steady 
trot. As the Cossacks rode past the farm they 
glanced towards it, but it was deserted. The 
sun licked greedily at the tiled roof. Afterwards 
they learned that the outpost had withdrawn 
the previous night, having discovered that the 


telegraph wires about half a verst away had 
been cut. 

Astakhov sent another shot after the Ger- 
mans, firing from the saddle, and one of them 
who had been lagging slightly behind shook 
his head and spurred on his horse. 

"We'll drive them along to the first outpost," 
Astakhov shouted, turning round to the others 
behind him. As he did so, Ivankov noticed that 
Astakhov's nose was peeling and a piece of 
skin was hanging from his nostril. 

"Why don't they turn and defend them- 
selves?" he asked anxiously, adjusting his 
rifle on his back. 

"Wait and see," grunted Shchegolkov, pant- 
ing like a broken-winded horse. 

The Germans dropped into a ravine and 
disappeared. On the farther side was ploughed 
land. On this side, scrub and an occasional 
bush. Astakhov reined in his horse, pushed 
back his cap, and wiped the beads of sweat 
away with the back of his hand. He looked at 
the others, spat and said: 

"Ivankov, you ride down and see where 
they've got to." 

Ivankov, red in the face, his back damp with 
sweat, licked his crusted lips thirstily and rode 


"Oh for a smoke!" Kruchkov muttered, 
driving the gadflies off with his whip. 

Ivankov rode steadily down into the ravine, 
rising in his stirrups and gazing across the 
bottom. Suddenly he saw the glittering points 
of lances; then the Germans appeared; they 
had turned their horses and were galloping 
back up the slope to the attack. The officer 
was in front, his sword raised picturesquely. 
In the seconds that elapsed while Ivankov 
wheeled his horse, the moody clean-shaven face 
of the officer and the fine way he sat in the 
saddle engraved themselves on Ivankov's 
memory. The thunder of German horses' hoofs 
flailed his heart. His back felt the pinching 
chill of death almost painfully. Without a cry 
he wheeled his horse round and rode back 
towards the others. 

Astakhov did not have time to put his 
tobacco pouch in his pocket. Seeing the Ger- 
mans behind Ivankov, Kruchkov was the first 
to ride down to meet them. The dragoons on 
the right flank were sweeping round to cut 
Ivankov off, and were overtaking him at amaz- 
ing speed. Ivankov was lashing at his horse, 
wry shudders passing over his face and his 
eyes starting out of his head. Bent to the 
saddle-bow, Astakhov took the lead. Brown 
dust boiled in the horses' wake. 


"Any moment now they'll catch me!" The 
numbing thought gripped Ivankov's mind and 
it did not occur to him to show resistance. He 
gathered his great body into a ball, his head 
touching his horse's mane. 

A big, ruddy-faced German overtook him 
and thrust his lance at his back. The point 
pierced Ivankov's leather belt and passed 
sideways for about an inch into his body. 

"Brothers, turn back!" he shouted insanely, 
drawing his sabre. He parried a second thrust 
aimed at his side, and cut down a German 
riding at him from the left. The next moment 
he was surrounded. A burly German horse 
struck the side of his mount, almost knocking 
it off its feet, and Ivankov got a terrible blurred 
close-up of an enemy face. 

Astakhov was the first to reach the group. 
He was driven off. He swung his sabre and 
twisted like an eel in his saddle, his teeth bared, 
his face changed and deathly. Ivankov was 
lashed across the neck with the point of a 
sword. A dragoon towered above him on the 
left, and the terrifying gleam of steel glittered 
in his eyes. He countered with his sabre; steel 
clashed against steel. From behind, a lance 
caught in his shoulder-strap and thrust insist- 
ently, tearing the strap away. Beyond his horse's 
head appeared the perspiring, fevered face 

31—1933 481 

of a freckled elderly German, who tried to get 
at Ivankov's chest with his sword. But the 
sword would not reach, and dropping it, the 
German tore his carbine from its yellow saddle- 
holster, his blinking eyes fixed on Ivankov's 
face. He did not succeed in freeing his carbine, 
for Kruchkov reached at him across his horse 
with a lance. The German, tearing the lance 
away from his breast, threw himself back, 
groaning in fear and astonishment. 

Eight dragoons surrounded Kruchkov, trying 
to capture him alive. But causing his horse to 
rear, he fought until they succeeded in knock- 
ing the sabre out of his hand. He snatched a 
lance from a German and wielded it as though 
on the parade ground. Beaten back, the Ger- 
mans hacked at the lance with their swords. 
They bunched together over a small patch of 
dismal, clayey ploughed land, seething and rock- 
ing in the struggle as though shaken by the 

Maddened with terror, the Cossacks and Ger- 
mans thrust and hacked at whatever came their 
way: backs, arms, horses and weapons. The 
horses jostled and kicked against one another 
in a frenzy of mortal fear. Regaining some 
measure of self-command, Ivankov tried sever- 
al times to strike at the head of a long-faced, 
flaxen-haired German who had fastened on him, 


but his sabre fell on the man's helmet and 
slipped off. 

Astakhov broke through the ring and galloped 
free, streaming with blood. The German officer 
chased after him. Tearing his rifle from his 
shoulder, Astakhov fired and killed him almost 
at point-blank range. This proved to be the turn- 
ing-point in the struggle. Having lost their 
commander, the Germans, all of them wounded 
with clumsy blows, dispersed and retreated. 
The Cossacks did not pursue them. They did 
not fire after them. They rode straight back to 
their squadron at Pelikaliye, while the Germans 
picked up a wounded comrade and fled towards 
the frontier. 

After riding perhaps half a verst Ivankov 
swayed in his saddle. 

"I'm. ... I shall drop . . ." he halted his 
horse. But Astakhov pulled at his reins, crying: 

"Come on!" 

Kruchkov smeared the blood over his face 
and felt his chest. Crimson spots were showing 
damply on his shirt. Beyond the farm where the 
second outpost had been stationed the party dis- 
agreed as to the way. 

"To the right!" Astakhov said, pointing to- 
wards the green, swampy ground of an alder 

"No, to the left!" Kruchkov insisted. 

31* 483 

They separated. Astakhov and Ivankov ar- 
rived at the regimental headquarters after Kruch- 
kov and Shchegolkov. They found the Cossacks 
of their squadron awaiting them. Ivankov 
dropped the reins, jumped from the saddle, 
swayed and fell. They had difficulty in freeing 
the sabre-hilt from his clutching fingers. 

Within an hour almost the entire squadron 
rode out to where the German officer lay. The 
Cossacks removed his boots, clothing and weap- 
ons and crowded around to look at the young, 
frowning, yellow face of the dead man. One of 
them managed to capture the officer's watch 
with a silver face-guard, and sold it on the spot 
to his troop sergeant. In a wallet they found a 
few bank-notes, a letter, a lock of flaxen hair 
and a photograph of a girl with a proud, smiling 


Afterwards this incident was transformed into 
a heroic exploit. Kruchkov, a favourite of the 
squadron commander, received the Cross of St. 
George. His comrades remained in shadow. The 
hero was sent to the divisional staff headquart- 
ers, where he lived in clover until the end of the 
war, receiving three more crosses because influ- 
ential ladies and officers came from Petersburg 
and Moscow to look at him. The ladies "ah-ed" 


and "oh-ed," and regaled the Don Cossack with 
expensive cigarettes and chocolates. At first he 
cursed them by all the devils, but afterwards, 
under the benevolent influence of the staff 
toadies in officers' uniform, he made a remunera- 
tive business of it. He told the story of his "ex- 
ploit," laying the colours on thick and lying 
without a twinge of conscience, while the ladies 
went into raptures, and stared admiringly at the 
pock-marked, brigand face of the Cossack hero. 
Everyone was pleased and happy. 

The tsar visited headquarters, and Kruchkov 
was taken to be shown to him. The sleepy emper- 
or looked Kruchkov over as if he were a horse, 
blinked his heavy eyelids, and patted the 
Cossack on the shoulder. 

"A fine Cossack lad!" he remarked and, 
turning to his suite, asked for some Seltzer 

Kruchkov's forelock figured constantly in the 
newspapers and magazines. There were Kruch- 
kov brands of cigarettes. The merchants of 
Nizhny-Novgorod presented him with a gold- 
mounted sabre. 

The uniform taken from the German officer 
Astakhov had killed was mailed to a plywood 
board and General von Rennenkampf put it in 
his car with Ivankov and his adjutant to hold it 
and drove before parading troops about to go 


to the front, making the customary fiery 
speeches in the official jargon. 

And what had really happened? Men, who 
had not yet acquired the knack of killing their 
own kind, had clashed on the field of death, and 
in the mortal terror that embraced them, had 
charged, and struck, and battered blindly at each 
other, mutilating one another and their horses; 
then they had turned and fled, frightened by a 
shot which had killed one of their number. They 
had ridden away morally crippled. 

And it was called a heroic exploit. 


The front was not yet the huge unyielding vi- 
per that it was to become. Cavalry skirmishes 
and battles flared up along the frontier. In the 
days immediately following the declaration of 
war the German command put out feelers in the 
shape of strong cavalry detachments that 
caused alarm among the Russian troops 
by slipping past the frontier posts and spy- 
ing out the disposition and numbers of their 
forces. The Russian Eighth Army was screened 
by the 12th Cavalry Division under the com- 
mand of General Kaledin. On its left flank the 
11th Cavalry Division had advanced across the 
Austrian frontier, but having captured Leshnuv 


and Brodi, was brought to a halt when the Aus- 
trians were reinforced by Hungarian caval- 
ry. The Hungarian cavalry hurled itself at the 
Russian units and forced them back towards 

Since his first battle Grigory Melekhov had 
been tormented by a dreary inward pain. He 
grew noticeably thinner and frequently, whether 
on the march or resting, sleeping or waking, 
he saw the features and form of the Austrian 
whom he had killed by the railings. In his sleep 
he lived again and again through that first 
battle, and even felt the shuddering convulsion 
of his right hand clutching the lance. He would 
awaken and drive the dream off violently, 
shading his painfully screwed-up eyes with 
his hand. 

The cavalry trampled down the ripened corn 
and scarred the fields with hoofprints, and it 
was as though a pounding hailstorm had swept 
Galicia. The heavy soldiers' boots tramped the 
roads, scratched the macadam, churned up the 
August mud. The gloomy face of the earth was 
pock-marked with shells; fragments of iron and 
steel rusted there, yearning for human blood. 
At night ruddy flickerings lit up the horizon: 
trees, villages, towns blazed like summer light- 
ning. In August-when fruits ripen and com is 


ready for harvest-the sky was unsmilingly grey, 
the rare fine days were oppressive and sultry, 

August was drawing to a close. The leaves 
turned yellow in the orchards, and a mournful 
purple spread from their stalks. From a dis- 
tance it looked as though the trees were gashed 
with wounds and bleeding to death. 

Grigory studied with interest the changes 
that occurred in his comrades. Prokhor Zykov 
returned from hospital with the marks of a horse- 
shoe on his cheek, and pain and bewilderment 
lurking in the corners of his lips. His calfish 
eyes blinked more than ever. Yegor Zharkov lost 
no opportunity to curse and swear, was even 
bawdier than before, and riled against every- 
thing under the sun. Yemelyan Groshev, a seri- 
ous and efficient Cossack from Grigory's own 
village, seemed to char; his face turned dark, 
and he laughed awkwardly and morosely. 
Changes were to be observed in every face; 
each was inwardly nursing and rearing the 
seeds of grief implanted by the war. 

The regiment was withdrawn from the line 
for a three-day rest, and its complement was 
made up by reinforcements from the Don. The 
Cossacks of Grigory's squadron were about to 
go for a dip in a neighbouring lake, when a con- 
siderable force of cavalry rode into the village 
from the station some three versts away. By the 


time the men had reached the dam of the lake 
the force was riding down the hill. Prokhor Zy- 
kov was pulling off his shirt when, looking up, 
he stared and exclaimed: 

"They're Cossacks, Don Cossacks!" 

Grigory gazed after the colimin crawling into 
the estate where the Fourth Squadron was quar- 

"Reserves, most likely." 

"Look boys; surely that's Stepan Astakhov? 
There in the third rank from the front," Gro- 
shev exclaimed, and gave a short grating laugh. 

"And there's Anikushka." 

"Grisha! Melekhov! There's your brother. 
D'you see him?" 

Narrowing his eyes, Grigory stared, trying to 
recognize the horse Pyotr was riding. "Must 
have bought a new one!" he thought, turning his 
gaze to his brother's face. Deeply tanned, with 
moustache clipped and brows bleeched by the 
summer sun, it was strangely altered since their 
last meeting. 

Grigory went to meet him, taking off his cap 
and waving mechanically. After him poured the 
half-dressed Cossacks, trampling underfoot the 
brittle undergrowth of angelica and burdock. 

Led by an elderly, stocky captain with a 
wooden hardness in the lines of his authorita- 
tive clean-shaven mouth, the detachment swung 


round the orchard into the estate. "A sticker!" 
Grigory thought, as he smiled at his brother and 
at the same time ran his eye over the captain's 
sturdy figure and his hook-nosed mount, 
evidently of an Eastern strain. 

"Hullo, Brother!" he shouted. 

"Glory be! We're going to be together. 
How're things?" 

"All right." 

"So you're still alive?" 

"So far." 

"Regards from the family." 

"How are they all?" 

"All right." 

Pyotr rested his palm on the croup of his stur- 
dy reddish horse and, turning his whole body in 
the saddle, surveyed Grigory smilingly. Then 
he rode on, and was hidden by the oncoming 
ranks of other Cossacks, familiar and unfa- 

"Hullo, Melekhov! Regards from the village." 

"So you're joining us?" Grigory grinned, rec- 
ognizing Mikhail Koshevoi by the golden slab 
of his forelock. 

"That's right. Like chickens after corn." 

"Mind you don't get pecked yourself." 

"We'll see about that!" 

Yegor Zharkov came from the lake dressed 
only in his shirt and hopping on one leg 


trying to thrust the other into his sharovari as 
he ran. 

"Hey, here's Zharkov!" rose a shout from 
the ranks. 

"Hullo, stallion! Have they had to hobble you 

"How's my mother?" 

"Still alive. She sent her love, but we wouldn't 
take any presents. We had enough to carry as 
it was." 

Yegor listened with an unusually serious ex- 
pression to the reply, and then sat down bare- 
bottomed in the grass, hiding his disappointed 
face and struggling ineffectually to get his 
trembling leg into his trousers. 

Half-dressed Cossacks stood behind the blue- 
painted fence; on the other side the reserve 
squadron from the Don flowed along the chest- 
nut-lined road into the yard. 

"That you, Alexander?" 

"Yes, it's me." 

"Andreyan! Why, you lop-eared devil, don't 
you know me?" 

"Love from the wife. So this is life in the ar- 
my, eh!" 

"Christ save you." 

"Where's Boris Belov?" 

"What squadron was he in?" 

"The Fourth, I think." 


"Where was he from?" 

"Vyeshenskaya stanitsa, Zaton." 

"What do you want him for?" a third voice 
broke into the fragmentary conversation. 

"I've got a letter for him, that's what." 

"He was killed a few days back, at Raibrodi." 

"Is that so?" 

"Believe me. I saw it with my own eyes. Bul- 
let in the chest, just under his left tit." 

"Anyone here from Chornaya Rechka?" 

"No. On you go." 

The squadron was drawn up in the yard. The 
other Cossacks returned to their bathe and were 
joined soon after by the new arrivals. Grigory 
dropped down at his brother's side. The damp, 
crumbling clay of the dam had an unpleasant 
raw smell about it; the water was bright-green 
at the edges. Grigory sat killing the lice 
in the folds and seams of his shirt, and told his 

"Pyotr, I'm played out. I'm like a man who 
only needs one more blow to kill him. It's as 
though I'd been between millstones; they've 
crushed me and spat me out." His voice was 
cracked and" complaining, and a dark furrow 
(only now, with a feeling of anxiety, did Pyotr 
notice it) slanting diagonally across his fore- 
head, made a startling impression of change and 


"Why, what's the matter?" Pyotr asked as he 
pulled off his shirt, revealing his bare white 
body with the clean-cut line of sunburn around 
the neck. 

"It's like this," Grigory said hurriedly, and 
his voice grew strong in its bitterness. "They've 
set us fighting one another, worse than a pack 
of wolves. Hatred everywhere. Sometimes I 
think to myself if I bit a man he'd get the ra- 

"Have you had to . . . kill anyone?" 

"Yes," Grigory almost shouted, screwing up 
his shirt and throwing it down at his feet. Then 
he sat pressing his throat with his fingers, as 
though pushing down a word that was choking 
him, and turned his eyes away, 

"Tell me," Pyotr ordered, avoiding his broth- 
er's eyes. 

"My conscience is killing me. I sent my lance 
through one man ... in hot blood ... I couldn't 
have done it otherwise. . . . But why did I cut 
down the other?" 


"It isn't 'well'! I cut down a man, and I'm 
sick at heart because of him, the swine! The 
bastard comes haunting me in my dreams. Was 
I to blame?" 

"You're not used to it yet; you'll get over it," 


"Are you stopping with our squadron?" Gri- 
gory asked abruptly. 

"No, we're drafted to the 27th Regiment." 

"I thought you had come to help us out." 

"Our squadron's going to be tacked on to 
some infantry division or other. We're catching 
it up. But we've brought you some replace- 
ments, a batch of young fellows." 

"Well, let's have a swim." 

Grigory hastily pulled off his trousers and 
went to the edge of the dam, sunburnt and well- 
built in spite of his stooped shoulders; he was 
older than when they last saw each other, Pyotr 
thought. Raising his hands, he dived into the 
water; a heavy green wave closed over him and 
billowed away. He struck out towards the group 
of Cossacks larking about in the middle, his 
hands slapping the water affectionately, his 
shoulders moving lazily. 

Pyotr was slow in removing from his neck the 
cross with the prayer sewn to it. He thrust the 
string under his pile of clothes, entered the wa- 
ter with timorous caution, wetted his chest and 
shoulders, then pressed forward with a groan 
and swam to overtake Grigory. They made for 
the opposite bank, which was sandy and cov- 
ered with bushes. The movement through the wa- 
ter cooled and soothed, and Grigory spoke re- 
strainedly and without his previous passion. 


"I've been so fed up I've let the lice eat me!" 
he remarked. "If I were only at home now! I'd 
fly there if I had wings. Just to take one little 
peep! How are they all?" 

"Natalya is living with us." 

"How are Father and Mother?" 

"All right. But Natalya's still waiting for you. 
She still believes you'll go back to her." 

Grigory snorted and spat out water without 
answering. Pyotr turned his head and tried to 
look into his brother's eyes. 

"You might send her a word in your letters. 
The woman lives only for you." 

"What, does she still want to tie up the 
broken ends?" 

"Well, she lives on hope. . . . She's a fine little 
wo^man. Strict too. She won't let anybody play 
about with her!" 

"She ought to get a husband." 

"Strange words from you!" 

"Nothing strange about them. That's how it 
ought to be." 

"Well, it's your business. I shan't inter- 

"And how's Dunya?" 

"She's a woman. Brother! She's grown so 
much this year that you wouldn't know her." 

"Is that so!" Grigory said, surprised and a 
little cheered. 


"God's truth! She'll be getting married next, 
and we shan't even get our whiskers into the 
vodka. Or we may even get killed off, damn 

"Nothing simpler!" 

They lay side by side on the sand, basking in 
the mild warmth of the sun. 

Misha Koshevoi swam past. "Come on, Gri- 
sha, into the water." 

"No, I'm resting." 

Burying a beetle in the sand, Grigory asked: 
"Heard anything of Aksinya?" 

"I saw her in the village just before war 
broke out." 

"What was she doing there?" 

"She'd come to get some things of hers from 
her husband." 

Grigory coughed and buried the beetle with 
a sweep of his hand. 

"Did you speak to her?" 

"Only passed the time of day. She was look- 
ing well, and cheerful. She seems to have an 
easy time at the estate." 

"And what about Stepan?" 

"He gave her her odds and ends all right. 
Behaved decently enough. But you keep your 
eyes open! I've been told that when he was 
drunk he swore he'd put a bullet through you 
in the first battle. He can't forgive you." 


"1 know." 

"I got myself a new horse," Pyotr changed 
the conversation. 

"Sold the bullocks?" 

"For a hundred and eighty. And the horse 
cost a hundred and fifty. Not a bad one, either." 

"What's the grain like?" 

"Good. They took us off before we could get 
it in." 

The talk turned to domestic matters, and the 
intensity of feeling passed. Grigory drank in 
Pyotr's news of home. For a brief moment he 
was living there again, just an ordinary self- 
willed lad. 

"Well, let's have another dip and get dressed," 
Pyotr suggested, brushing the sand off his 
damp belly. His back and arms were covered 
with gooseflesh. 

They returned with a crowd of Cossacks to 
the yard. At the orchard fence Stepan Astakhov 
overtook them. He was combing his hair back 
under the peak of his cap as he walked. Draw- 
ing level with Grigory, he said: 

"Hullo, friend!" 

"Hullo!" Grigory halted and turned to him 
with a touch of embarrassment and guilt in his 

"You haven't forgotten me, have you?" 


32—1933 497 

"But I remember you!" Stepan smiled derisive- 
ly and passed on, slipping his arm round the 
shoulder of a corporal walking ahead of them. 

After sundown a telephone message came 
from the divisional staff for Grigory's regiment 
to return to the front. The squadrons were as- 
sembled within fifteen minutes, and rode off 
singing to close a breach made in the line by 
the enemy cavalry. 

As they said good-bye to each other Pyotr 
thrust a folded paper into his brother's hand. 

"What's this?" Grigory asked. 

"I've copied down a prayer for you. Take 
it " 

"Is it any good?" 

"Don't laugh, Grigory!" 

"I'm not laughing." 

"Well, good-bye. Brother. Don't dash away 
in front of the rest. Death has a fancy for the 
hot-blooded ones. Look after yourself," Pyotr 

"What's the prayer for then?" 

Pyotr waved his hand. 

For some time the squadrons rode without ob- 
serving any precautions. Then the sergeants 
gave orders for the utmost possible quiet, and 
for all cigarettes to be put out. Flares, adorned 
with tails of lilac smoke, soared high over a dis- 
tant wood. 


A small brown Morocco notebook. The cor- 
ners were frayed and broken; it must have spent 
a long time in its owner's pocket. The pages 
were covered with rather elaborate sloping 
handwriting. , 

, . . For some time now I have felt this need 
for putting pen to paper. I want to keep a sort 
of "college diary," First of all, about her. In 
February (I don't remember the date) I got to 
know her through a neighbour of hers, a stu- 
dent called Boyaryshkin. I ran into them outside 
a cinema. When Boyaryshkin introduced her, he 
said: "Liza comes from the Vyeshenskaya sta- 
nitsa. Be nice to her, Timofei. She's an excellent 
girl." I remember uttering some incoherent re- 
mark and taking her soft sweaty hand in mine. 
That was how I met Yelizaveta Mokhova. I 
realized at once that she had been spoiled. Wom- 
en like her have something in their eyes that 
tells you too much. The impression she created 
on me, I admit, was not very favourable. It must 
have been that clammy hand of hers. I have 
never met anyone whose hands perspired so 
much; then those eyes, very beautiful eyes actu- 
ally, with a glorious hazel tint in them, and yet 

32* 499 

Vasya, old friend, I find myself consciously 
touching up my style, even resorting to image- 
ry, for when this "diary" reaches you in Semi- 
palatinsk (I'm thinking of sending it to you 
after this affair I have started with Yelizaveta 
Mokhova is over; it may amuse you) I want you 
to have a clear idea of what happened. I shall 
describe things in chronological order. Well, as 
I have said, I was introduced to her and the 
three of us went in to see some sentimental cin- 
ema rubbish. Boyaryshkin kept quiet (he had 
toothache, "molar-ache," as he called it) and I 
found it difficult to make conversation. We 
turned out to be from the same neighbourhood, 
that is, from neighbouring stanitsas, but after we 
had shared a few reminiscences about the beauty 
of steppe scenery and so on, our talk petered 
out. I preserved an unconstrained silence, so to 
speak, and she suffered the lack of conversation 
without the slightest discomfort. I learned from 
her that she was a second-year medical student, 
that she came of a merchant family, and that 
she was fond of strong tea and Asmolov's snuff. 
Extremely scanty information, as you can imag- 
ine, for getting to know a girl with hazel eyes. 
When we said good-bye (we saw her off to the 
tramstop), she asked me to call on her. I made 
a note of her address. I think I shall drop in on 
April 28th. 


April 29th 

Called on her today, she gave me tea and 
halvah. As a matter of fact, there is something 
in her. Sharp tongue, moderately clever, but 
she's got hold of that Artsibashev do-as-you- 
please theory, you can smell it a verst off. Came 
home late. Made myself cigarettes and thought 
of things completely unconnected with her, 
mainly money. My suit is in an appalling state, 
but I have no "capital." On the whole, things 
are rotten. 

May 1st 

Today was marked by an event of some im- 
portance. While passing the time quite harmless- 
ly in Sokolniki Park, we got involved in an in- 
cident. The police and a detachment of Cossacks, 
about twenty of them, were dispersing a work- 
ers' May Day meeting. A drunk hit one of the 
Cossack's horses with a stick and the Cossack 
brought his whip into play. (I don't know why, 
but some people persist in calling a whip a 
switch. It has its own glorious title-why not use 
it?) I went up and decided to intervene impelled 
by the most noble feelings, I assure you. I told 
the Cossack he was a lout, and one or two other 
things besides. He was going to take a swing at 
me with his whip, but I told him pretty firmly 
that I was a Cossack of Kamenskaya stanitsa 


myself and could knock hell out of him any day 

of the week. The Cossack happened to be a 
good-natured fellow, young; hadn't been in the 
army long enough to get sour. He replied that 
he was from the stanitsa of Ust-Khoperskaya 
and a useful man with his fists. We parted peace- 
fully. If he had started anything against me, 
there would have been a fight; and something 
rather worse would have happened to my own 
person. My intervention is to be explained by 
the fact that Liza was with us and when I am 
in her presence I am carried away by a purely 
childish desire to do something heroic. I can 
actually see myself turning into a young cock- 
erel and feel an invisible red comb sprouting 
under my cap. . . . What am I coming to! 

May 3rd 

The only thing to do in my present mood is 
get drunk. On top of everything I have no mon- 
ey. My trousers are hopelessly split just where it 
matters most (in the crutch, to put it bluntly), 
like an overripe water-melon down on the Don, 
and the chances of my darn holding out are re- 
mote indeed. Might as well try to sew up a wa- 
ter-melon. Volodka Strezhnev has been round, 
Tomorrow I shall attend lectures. 


May 7th 

Money from Father. Rather a grumpy letter, 
but I don't feel a scrap of shame. What if Dad 
knew his son's moral supports are rotting like 
this. . . . Have bought a suit. My new tie attracts 
the attention even of the cabmen. After a shave 
at the best hairdresser's in town, came out as 
fresh as a draper's shop assistant. At the corner 
of the boulevard a policeman smiled at me. The 
old scoundrel! But what is past is past. ... I saw 
Liza quite by chance through the window of a 
tram. She waved her glove and smiled. How do 
you like that! 

May 8th 

"To love all ages are submissive. ..." I can 
still see the mouth of Tatyana's husband gaping 
up at me like a gun barrel. From my seat in the 
gallery I had an irresistible desire to spit into 
it. Whenever I think of that phrase, particularly 
the "sub-miss-ive" at the end, my jaw aches 
to yawn. Probably a nervous tick. 

But the point is that I, at my age, am in love. 
Though it makes my hair stand on end to write 
it. . . . Called on Liza. Began with a very long 
and high-flown introduction. She pretended not 
to understand and tried to change the subject. 
Is it toQ early yet? Devil take it, this new suit 


has mixed everything up. When I look at my- 
self in the mirror I feel I am irresistible. Now is 
the time, I think! Actually, with me it is 
straightforward accounting that wins the day. If 
I don't propose now, in two months' time it will 
be too late; my trousers will be worn out and 
I won't be able to propose anyhow. As I write 
this I overflow with self-admiration. What a 
brilliant combination I am of all the best qual- 
ities of the best people of our time. Here you 
have gentle yet fiery passion as well as the 
"voice of reason firm." A Russian salad of all 
the virtues, not to mention a host of other ad- 
mirable qualities. 

Well, I got no further with her than my pre- 
liminary introduction. We were interrupted by 
her landlady, who called her out into the cor- 
ridor and asked her for a loan. She refused al- 
though she had the money. I knew that for a 
fact and I pictured her face as she refused in 
that truthful voice of hers and with such sin- 
cerity in those hazel eyes. I didn't want to talk 
about love after that. 

May 13th 

I am well and truly in love. There can be no 
doubt about it. Everything tells me so. Tomor- 
row I shall propose. So far I have not yet 
worked Qut my part. 


May 14th 

The thing came about in a most unexpected 
fashion. It was raining, a nice warm shower. 
We were walking along the Mokhovaya, the 
wind was sweeping rain across the pavement. 
I talked and she was quiet, with her head down 
as if she were thinking. A trickle of rain ran 
off the brim of her hat on to her cheek, and she 
was beautiful. I quote our conversation: 

"Yelizaveta Sergeyevna, I have told you 
what I feel, now it is up to you." 

"I doubt the sincerity of your feelings." 

I shrugged my shoulders in an idiotic fash- 
ion and said icily that I was ready to take an 
oath, or something of the kind. 

She said: "Look here, you are talking like a 
character out of Turgenev. Can't you make it 

"Nothing could be simpler. I love you." 

"And now what?" 

"Now it's up to you." 

"You want me to say I love you too?" 

"I want you to say something." 

"You see, Timofei Ivanovich. . . . How shall 
I put it? I like you just a little bit. . . . You're 
very tall," 

"I'll get taller," I promised. 

"But we know each other iso little, we. . . ," 


"In ten years' time we'll know each other a 
lot better." 

She rubbed her wet cheeks with a pink hand 
and said: "Well, all right then, let's live to- 
gether. Time will show. But you must let me 
break off my former attachment first." 

"Who is he?" I inquired. 

"You don't know him. He's a doctor, a vene- 

"When will you be free?" 

"By Friday, I hope." 

"Shall we be living together? In the same 
flat, I mean?" 

"Yes, I think it would be more convenient 
that way. You will move into my flat." 


"I have a very comfortable room. It is quite 
clean and the landlady is a nice person." 

I raised no objection. At the corner of the 
Tverskaya we parted. To the great astonish- 
ment of a lady who happened to be passing we 

What does the future hold in store? 

May 22nd 

Living a life of honey. Today my "honey" 
mood was clouded by Liza's telling me I must 
change my underwear. Of course, my under- 


wear is in a disgusting state. But the money, 
the money. . . . We are spending mine and there 
isn't much left. Shall have to find work. 

May 24th 

Today I decided to buy some new underwear 
but Liza put me to unexpected expense. She 
suddenly had an irresistible desire to dine at a 
good restaurant and buy herself a pair of silk 
stockings. We have dined and bought, but I am 
in despair. No underwear for me! 

May 27th 

She's sucking me dry. I am physically no 
more than a bare sunflower stalk. Not a wom- 
an but a smouldering fire! 

June 2nd 

We woke up today at nine. My accursed 
habit of wriggling my toes led to the following 
results. She pulled back the bed-clothes and 
subjected my foot to a prolonged exami- 
nation. Then she summed up her observations 

"You have a foot like a horse's hoof. Worse! 
And that hair on your toes-ugh!" She jerked 
her shoulders in a kind of feverish disgust, 
buried her head under the bed-clothes and 
turned away to the wall. 


I was confused. I tucked my feet out of sight 
and touched her on the shoulder. 


"Leave me alone!" 

"Liza, this won't do at all. I can't change the 
shape of my feet, they weren't made to order, 
you know. And as for the vegetation, you nev- 
er know where hair will grow next. It grows 
everywhere. You're a medical student, you 
ought to know the laws of nature." 

She turned over. There was a nasty glint in 
her hazel eyes. 

"For goodness sake buy some deodorant 
powder. Your feet stink like a corpse." 

I remarked judiciously that her hands were 
always clammy. She remained silent and, to put 
it in lofty terms, a murky cloud descended on 
my soul. . . , 

June 4th 

Today we went for a boat trip down the river 
Moskva. Recalled the Don countryside. Liza's 
conduct is unworthy of her. She keeps making 
cutting remarks at my expense, and sometimes 
they are very rude. To pay her back in her own 
coin would mean the breaking-off of our rela- 
tions, and I don't want that. In spite of every- 
thing, I am getting more and more attached to 
her. She is simply spoiled. But I fear my influ- 


6nce will not be strong enough to produce any 
radical change in her character. A lovable, 
spoiled little girl. A little girl, moreover, who 
has seen things that I know of only by hear- 
say. On the way home she dragged me into a 
chemist's and, with a smile on her face, bought 
talcum powder and some other rubbish. "This'll 
keep the smell down." 

I made a gallant bow and thanked her. 

Absurd, but there it is. 

June 7th 

She has really very little intellect, but she 
knows all the other things. 

Every night before going to bed I wash my 
feet in hot water, pour eau-de-Cologne over 
them and powder them with some other dis- 
gusting stuff. 

June 16 th 

Every day she becomes 2Tiore and more intol- 
erable. Yesterday she had an attack of hyster- 
ics. It is very hard to live with such a woman. 

June 18th 
We have absolutely nothing in common! We 
are not even talking the same language. 

This morning she went to my pocket for 
money before going to the baker's, and came 
across this little book. She looked at it. 


"What's this you are carrying about?" 

I felt hot all over. Suppose she glanced 
through it? I was surprised to hear myself an- 
swer in such a natural voice: "Just a notebook 
for calculations." 

She pushed it back into my pocket quite in- 
differently and went out. I must be more care- 
ful. Direct impressions of this kind are only 
worth while when the other person knows noth- 
ing about them. 

They shall be a source of entertainment to 
my friend Vasya. 

June 21st 

I am astounded at Liza. She is twenty-one. 
When did she have time to get so immoral? 
What kind of family has she got, who had a 
hand in her development? These are questions 
that interest me intensely. She is devilishly 
beautiful. She takes pride in the perfection of 
her figure. It is just a cult of self-adoration- 
nothing else exists for her. I have tried several 
times to talk to her seriously. ... It would be 
easier to convince an Old Believer that God 
does not exist than to re-educate Liza. 

Life together has become impossible and ab- 
surd. Yet I hesitate to break things off. I must 
confess that in spite of everything I like her. 
She has grown upon me. 


June 24th 

It all came out at once. We had a heart-to- 
heart talk today and she told me I could not 
satisfy her physically. The break is not yet of- 
ficial, in a few days probably. 

June 26th 

What she needs is a stallion! A real one! 

June 28th 

It is very difficult for me to give her up. She 
drags me down like mud. Today we took a ride 
out to the Vorobyovy Hills. She sat by the hotel 
window and the sun filtered under the carved 
roof on to her curls. Her hair is the colour of 
pure gold. And there's a piece of poetry for 

July 4th 

I have left my work. Liza has left me. Today 
I drank beer with Strezhnev. Yesterday we 
drank vodka. Liza and I parted as educated 
people should, in a practical manner. No non- 
sense. Today I saw her in Dmitrov Street 
with a young man in jockey boots. She acknowl- 
edged my greeting with restraint. It is about 
time I stopped writing these notes-the source 
has run dry. 


July 30th 

I am quite unexpectedly impelled to take up 
the pen again. War. An explosion of bestial en- 
thusiasm. Every top-hat stinks like a dead dog 
of patriotism. The other fellows are in- 
dignant, but I am gratified. I am eaten up with 
longing for my . . . "paradise lost." Last night 
I had a quiet little dream about Liza. She has 
left a deep mark of yearning. I should be glad 
of some diversion. 

August 1st 

I'm fed up with all this noise and fuss. The 
old feeling of longing has returned. I suck at 
it as a child sucks a dummy. 

August 3rd 

A way out! I shall go to the war. Foolish? 
Very. Shameful? 

But what else can I do? Oh for a taste of 
something different! Yet there was no such feel- 
ing of satiety two years ago. Surely I'm not 
getting old? 

August 7th 

I am writing in the train. We have just left 
Voronezh. Tomorrow I shall be home. I have 
made up my mind, I shall fight for "the Faith, 
the Tsar, and the Fatherland." 


August 12th 

What a send-off they gave me. The ataman 
had a drink or two and made an impassioned 
speech. Afterwards I told him in a whisper that 
he was a fool. He was flabbergasted and so of- 
fended his cheeks turned green. Then he hissed 
spitefully: "And you call yourself educated! You 
wouldn't be one of those we gave the lash in 
1905, would you?" I replied that, to my regret, 
I was not "one of those." My father wept and 
tried to kiss me with a dewdrop dangling from 
the tip of his nose. Poor dear father! He ought 
to be in my shoes. I suggested jokingly that 
he should come with me, and he exclaimed in 
alarm: "But what about the farm?" Tomorrow 
I leave for the station. 

August 13th 

Here and there unharvested corn-fields. Sleak 
marmots on the hillocks. They bear a striking 
resemblance to the picture-postcard Germans 
we see impaled on Kozma Kruchkov's lance. 
Once upon a time when I was a student of 
mathematics and other exact sciences, little did 
I think I should live to become such a "jin- 
goist." When I get into a regiment I shall have 
a talk with the Cossacks. 

33—1933 513 

August 22nd 

At one of the stations along the line I saw 
the first group of prisoners. A fine-looking Aus- 
trian officer with a sportsman's bearing was be- 
ing taken under guard to the station building. 
Two young ladies strolling along the platform 
smiled at him. He managed a very neat bow 
without stopping and blew them a kiss. 

Even as a prisoner he was clean-shaven, gal- 
lant, his brown boots glistened. I watched him 
as he walked away. A young handsome fellow, 
a pleasant friendly face. If you met him in bat- 
tle, your arm would not lift to strike. 

August 24th 

Refugees, refugees, refugees. , . , Every line 
is crowded with trains of refugees and troops. 

The first hospital train has just passed. When 
it stopped a young soldier jumped out. His 
face was bandaged. We got talking. He had 
been wounded with grape-shot. Awfully glad 
he probably won't have to do any more ser- 
vice; his eye was damaged. He was actually 

August 27th 

I am in my regiment. The regimental com- 
mander is a very fine old man. A Cossack from 
the lower Don. One can feel the smell of blood 


round here. There are rumours that we shall be 
in the front line the day after tomorrow. Mine 
is the Third Troop of the Third Squadron- 
Cossacks from Konstantinovskaya stanitsa. A 
dull lot. Only one wag and songster. 

I August 28th 

We are going up. Today there is a lot of 
noise out there. Sounds like thunder rumbling 
in the distance. I even sniffed the air for rain. 
But the sky is like blue satin. 

Yesterday my horse went lame, grazed its 
leg on the wheel of a field-kitchen. Everything 
is new and strange. I don't know what to start 
on, what to write about. 

August 30th 

Yesterday there was no time to write. Now 
I am writing in the saddle. The jolting makes 
my pencil perform some monstrous antics. 
There are three of us riding with a forage train 
for grass. 

Now the lads are tying down the load and I 
am lying on my stomach making a belated re- 
cord of what happened yesterday. Yesterday 
Sergeant Tolokonnikov (he addresses me con- 
temptuously as "student." "Hi there, student, 
can't you see your horse has got a shoe coming 
off?") sent six of us out on reconnaissance. We 

33* ' 515 

drove through some burnt-out village or other. 
It was very hot. The horses were sweating and 
so were we. Cossacks should not have to wear 
serge trousers in summer. In a ditch outside 
the village I saw my first corpse. A German, 
Lying on his back with his legs in the ditch. 
One arm twisted under him, a rifle magazine 
clasped in the other. No rifle anywhere near. 
A ghastly sight. A cold shiver runs down my 
spine as I think of it. . . . He looked as if he 
had been sitting with his legs in the ditch, and 
had then lain back to rest. Grey uniform and 
helmet. You could see the leather lining. I was 
so dazed by this first experience that I don't 
remember his face. Only the big yellow ants 
crawling over the yellow forehead and glassy 
half-closed eyes. The Cossacks crossed them- 
selves as they rode past. I looked at the small 
spot of blood on the right side of his uniform. 
The bullet had hit him in the right side and 
gone straight through. As I rode past I noticed 
that where the bullet had come out, the stain on 
the uniform and the clot of blood on the 
ground were much bigger and the uniform was 
torn raggedly. 

I rode past shuddering. So that is how it 

The senior sergeant, whose nickname is 
"Teaser," tried to restore our spirits by telling 


us a dirty story, but his own lips were trem- 

About half a verst on from the village we 
came to a gutted factory, just brick walls black- 
ened with smoke at the top. We were afraid to 
go straight along the road because it lay past 
this heap of ashes, so we decided to go round 
it. As soon as we struck off the road somebody 
started firing at us from the factory. The 
sound of that first shot, ashamed though I am 
to admit it, nearly toppled me out of my 
saddle. I grabbed the pommel and instinctively 
ducked down and tugged the reins. We galloped 
back to the village past the ditch where the 
dead German lay, and did not recover our wits 
until the village was behind us. Then we turned 
round and dism.ounted. We left two men with 
the horses and the other four of us made our 
way back to that ditch. We crouched down to 
go along it. From a distance I saw the legs of 
the dead German in short yellow boots dan- 
gling over the edge. When I passed him I held 
my breath, as if he were asleep and I were af- 
raid of waking him. The grass under him was 
moist and green. 

We lay down in the ditch and a few minutes 
later nine German uhlans rode out from behind 
the ruins of the gutted factory. I could tell they 
were uhlans by their uniforms. One of them, 


evidently an officer, shouted something in a 
gutteral voice and the whole detachment rode 
in our direction. The lads are calling for me to 
come and help them load the grass. I must go. 

August 30th 

I want to finish describing how I shot at a 
man for the first time. The German uhlans rode 
down on us and I can still see those lizard- 
green uniforms, the glistening bell-shapes of 
their helmets, their lances with the flags flutter- 
ing at the tips. 

They were mounted on dark bay horses. For 
some reason I let my glance wander to the 
bank of the ditch and noticed a small emerald- 
green beetle. It grew larger and larger before 
my eyes until it seemed enormous. Brushing 
aside the blades of grass like a giant, it lum- 
bered towards my elbow that I had propped on 
the dry crumbling clay of the bank; it climbed 
the sleeve of my tunic and crawled quickly on 
to the rifle, then from the rifle, on to the sling. 
I was still watching it on its journey when I 
heard the Teaser's voice bawling: "Fire, what's 
the matter with you?!" 

I settled my elbow more firmly, screwed up 
my left eye and felt my heart swelling till it 
was as huge as that emerald beetle. My sights 
trembled against a background of grey-green 


uniform. I pressed the trigger and heard the 
moaning flight of my bullet. Next to me 
the Teaser fired. I must have had my 
sights too low because the bullet ricochet- 
ted off a tussock and kicked up a spurt of dust. 
It was the first shot I had ever fired at a man. 
I emptied the magazine without aiming. And it 
was only when I pulled the trigger and got no 
response that I had a look at the Germans. 
They were galloping back in the same good or- 
der as before, with the officer bringing up the 
rear. There were nine of them and I could see 
the dark bay croupe of the officer's horse and 
the metal plate on the top of his uhlan's helmet. 

September 2nd 

In War and Peace Tolstoi has a passage in 
which he speaks of the line between opposing 
armies, the line of the unknown that seems to 
divide the living from the dead. The squadron 
in which Nikolai Rostov is serving goes into 
the attack and Rostov sees that line in his 
mind's eye. I remember that passage particu- 
larly vividly today, because today at dawn we 
attacked a unit of hussars. Ever since 
early morning their troops, with excellent ar- 
tillery support, had been harrassing our infan- 
try. I saw some of our men-the 241st and 273rd 


infantry regiments, I think-fleeing in panic. 
They had been literally demoralized after be- 
ing thrown into an attack with no artillery sup- 
port. Enemy fire had accounted for nearly a 
third of their number and they were being pur- 
sued by German hussars. Then our regiment, 
which had been standing in reserve in a forest 
clearing, was thrown into action. This is how 
I remember the affair. 

We left the village of Tishvichi between two 
and three in the morning. Dawn was coming 
and it was very dark. The air was heavy with 
the smell of oats and pine needles. The 
regiment proceeded in squadrons. We turned 
off the road and struck across the fields. The 
horses snorted as they sprinkled the heavy dew 
off the oats with their hoofs. 

It was chilly even in a greatcoat. They kept 
the regiment tracking across the fields for a 
long time and an hour passed before an officer 
rode up and handed an order to the regimental 
commander. Our old man passed on the order 
in a dissatisfied tone and the regiment turned 
at right angles into the woods. Our columns 
were bunched closely on the narrow path. 
Fighting was going on somewhere to the left. 
Judging by the noise a large number of German 
batteries were in action. The sound of the gun- 
fire vibrated in the air and it felt as if all that 


scented pinewood was on fire above us. Until 
sunrise we could only listen. A cheer went up, 
a limp, ragged sort of cheer, and then-stillness 
threaded with the clean hammering of machine- 
guns. At that moment my head was in a whirl; 
the only thing I could think of, and that pic- 
ture* was utterly and painfully clear, were the 
faces of our infantry as they advanced. 

In my mind's eye I could see the baggy grey 
figures in their flat army caps and clumsy sol- 
dier's top-boots pounding over the autumn 
earth, and I could hear the sharp hoarse 
chuckle of the German machine-guns as they 
set to work transforming those living sweating 
human bodies into corpses. The two regiments 
were mown down and fled, abandoning their 
arms. Then a regiment of German hussars 
charged down on them. We came out on their 
flank at a distance of about seven hundred 
yards or less. An order was given. We formed 
up instantly. I heard a single cold command. 
"Forward!" It seemed to hold us back for a 
moment like a bit, then we were flying ahead. 
My horse's ears were pressed so flat against 
its head you couldn't have prised them up with 
your fingers. I glanced round-behind me were 
the regimental commander and two officers. 
Yes, this was it, this was the line dividing the 


living from the dead. Here it was, the great 
moment of insanity! 

The hussars wavered and turned back. Be- 
fore my eyes our squadron commander Cheme- 
tsov cut down a German hussar. I saw a Cos- 
sack of the Sixth Squadron overtake a German 
and hack madly at his horse's croup. Ribbons 
of skin streamed from the sabre as it rose and 
fell. It was inconceivable! There was no name 
for it! On the way back I saw Chernetsov's 
face, intent and controlledly cheerful-he might 
have been sitting at the card table, instead of 
in the saddle, having just murdered a man, 
Squadron-Commander Chernetsov will go far. 
A capable fellow! 

September 4th 

We are resting. The Fourth Division of the 
Second Army Corps is being brought up to the 
front. We are stationed at the small town of 
Kobylino. This morning units of the 11th Cav- 
alry Division and the Urals Cossacks went 
through the town at a fast pace. Fighting con- 
tinues in the west. A constant rumble. After 
dinner I went to the field hospital. A train of 
wounded had just arrived. Stretcher-bearers 
were unloading a big wagon and laughing. I 
went up to them. A tall ginger-haired soldier 
had just climbed down with the help of an or- 


derly, "What do you think of that, Cossack," 
he said, addressing me. "They've given me a 
load of peas in the behind. It's full of grape- 
shot." The orderly asked him if the shell had 
burst behind him. "Behind me be damned, I 
was advancing behind-first myself." A nurse 
came out of one of the cottages. I glanced at 
her and suddenly felt so weak I had to lean 
against a cart. Her resemblance to Liza was ex- 
traordinary. The same eyes, the same oval face, 
nose, hair. Even her voice was similar. Or was 
I imagining things? Now, I suppose, I shall see 
a resemblance to her in every woman I meet. 

September 5th 

The horses have had a day's feeding in the 
stalls and we are off to the front again. Physi- 
cally I am a wreck. The bugler is playing the 
order to mount. There's a man I should love 
to put a bullet through! 

The squadron commander had sent Grigory 
Melekhov with a message to regimental head- 
quarters. As he rode through the district where 
the recent fighting had taken place Grigory no- 
ticed a dead Cossack lying at the side of the 
highway. He lay with his fair curly head close 
to the hoof -pitted road. Grigory dismounted 
and, holding his nose (the dead man already 

reeked of decay), searched the body. In the 
trousers pocket he found this notebook, a stub 
of mdelible pencil and a purse. He removed 
the cartridge belt and glanced at the pale, moist 
face that was already beginning to decompose. 
The temples and the bridge of the nose were 
turning black, on the forehead a slantwise fur- 
row fixed in mortal concentration was grimed 
with dust. 

Grigory covered the face with a cambric 
handkerchief that he found in the dead man's 
pocket and rode on to headquarters, pausing 
now and then to glance round. He handed in 
the notebook to the headquarters clerks, who 
gathered round to read it and laugh over this 
other man's brief life and its earthly desires. 


During August the 11th Cavalry Division 
took town after town by storm, and by the end 
of the month they were deployed around the 
town of Kamenka-Strumilovo. Behind them 
came the army; infantry units massed on im- 
portant strategic sectors, staff units and bag- 
gage trains gathered at the railway junctions. 
The front stretched from the Baltic like a 
death-dealing whiplash. At staff headquarters 
a big offensive was being planned; generals 


pored over their maps, dispatch riders dashed 
to and fro with battle orders, hundreds of 
thousands of soldiers marched to their death. 

The reconnaissance patrols reported that con- 
siderable forces of enemy cavalry were ap- 
proaching the town. In the wooids along the 
roads skirmishes were fought between Cossack 
detachments and the enemy advance guards. 

Ever since seeing his brother, Grigory Me- 
lekhov had sought to put an end to his painful 
thoughts, and to recover his former tranquillity 
of spirit. But it was no use. Among the last 
reinforcements from the second line of reserv- 
ists a Cossack, Alexei Uryupin, had been draft- 
ed into Grigoiy's troop. Uryupin was tall, rath- 
er round-shouldered with an aggressive lower 
jaw and drooping Kalmyk whiskers. His mer- 
ry, fearless eyes were always smiling, and he 
was bald, with only scanty ruddy hair around 
the edges of his angular scull. On the very first 
day of his arrival he was nicknamed "Tufty." 

After fighting around Brodi the regiment 
had a day's respite. Grigory and Uryupin were 
quartered in the same hut. They soon fell into 

"You know, Melekhov, you must be moult- 
ing or something." 

"What do you mean-moulting?" Grigory 
asked with a frown. 


"You're all limp, as though you were ill," 
Uryupiii explained. 

They had been feeding their horses and they 
stood smoking with their backs against a ricke- 
ty moss-grown fence. Hussars were riding four 
abreast down the road; dead bodies were ly- 
ing about by the fences, for there had been 
fighting in the streets when the Austrians with- 
drew; a charred smell rose from the ruins of a 
gutted synagogue. In the rich colours of early 
evening the town was one immense picture of 
destruction and repelling emptiness. 

"I'm all right," Grigory spat out, not looking 
at the other. 

"You're lying! I've got eyes to see!" 

"Well, and what can you see?" 

"You're scared! Is it death you're scared of?" 

"You're a fool!" Grigory said contemptuous- 
ly, staring narrowly at his finger-nails. 

"Tell me, have you killed anyone?" Uryupin 
went on with his probing. 

"Yes. What of it?" 

"Does it weigh on your mind?" 

"Weigh on my mind?" Grigory smiled bitter- 


Uryupin drew his sabre from its scabbard. 
"Would you like me to slash your head off?" 
"And then?" 
"I'll kill you without a sigh of regret. I have 


no pity." Uryupin's eyes were smiling, but by 
his voice and the rapacious quiver of his nostrils 
Grigory realized that he meant what he said. 

"You're queer-you're a savage," said Gri- 
gory, studying Uryupin's face intently. 

"Bah, your heart's made of water. Do you 
know this stroke? Watch!" Uryupin selected an 
old birch-tree in the hedge and went straight 
towards it, measuring the distance with his 
eyes. His long, sinewy arms with their unusu- 
ally broad wrists hung motionless. 


He slowly raised his sabre, and suddenly 
swung it slantwise with terrible force. Complete- 
ly severed four feet from the ground, the 
birch toppled over, its branches scraping at the 
window and clawing the walls of the hut. 

"Did you see that? Learn it. There was an 
ataman called Baklanov, ever heard of him? 
The blade of his sabre was filled with quick 
silver. It was heavy to lift, but he could cut 
a horse in two with it. Like that!" 

It took Grigory a long time to master the 
difficult technique of the new stroke. "You're 
strong, but you're a fool with your sabre. This 
is the way!" Uryupin instructed him, wielding 
his sabre slantwise with terrific force. "Cut a 
man down boldly! Man is as soft as dough." A 
smile came into his eyes. "Don't think about 


the why and wherefore. You're a Cossack, and 
it's your business to cut down without asking 
questions. To kill your enemy in battle is a ho- 
ly work. For every man you kill G'od will wipe 
out one of your sins, just as he does for killing 
a serpent. You mustn't kill an animal unless 
it's necessary, but destroy man! He's a heathen, 
unclean; he poisons the earth, he lives like a 
toadstool !" 

When Grigory raised objections he only 
frowned and lapsed into an obstinate silence. 

Grigory noticed with surprise that all horses 
were afraid of Uryupin. When he went near 
them they would prick up their ears and bunch 
together as though an animal were approach- 
ing, and not a man. On one occasion the squad- 
ron had to attack on foot over a wooded and 
swampy district. The horses were led aside into 
a dell. Uryupin was among those assigned to 
take charge of the horses, but he flatly refused. 

"Uryupin, why the devil don't you lead away 
your horses?" the troop sergeant barked at him. 

"They're afraid of me. God's truth, they are!" 
he replied with the usual twinkle in his eyes. 

He never took his turn at minding the horses. 
He was kind to his own mount, but Grigory 
observed that whenever he went up to it a 
shiver ran down the animal's back, and it 
fidgeted uneasily. 


"Tell me, why are the horses afraid of you?" 
Grigory once asked him. 

"I don't know," he replied with a shrug of his 
shoulders. "I'm kind enough to them." 

"They know a drunken man and are afraid 
of him, but you're always sober." 

"I've a hard heart, and they seem to feel it." 

"You have a wolf's heart. Or maybe it's just 
a stone you've got and not a heart at all." 

"Maybe!" Uryupin willingly agreed. 

The troop was dispatched on reconnaissance 
work. The previous evening a Czech deserter 
from the Austrian army had informed the Rus- 
sian command of a change in the disposition 
of the enemy forces and a proposed counter- 
attack, and there was need for continual obser- 
vation over the road along which the hostile 
regiments must pass. 

The troop officer left four Cossacks with the 
sergeant at the edge of a wood, and rode with 
the others towards a town lying beyond the 
next rise. Grigory, Uryupin, Misha Koshevoi 
and another Cossack were left with the sergeant. 

The sergeant ordered them to dismount and 
told Koshevoi to take the horses behind a thick 
bunch of pine-trees and mind them. 

The Cossacks lay smoking by a fallen pine, 
while the sergeant watched the country through 
his binoculars. Half an hour they lay there, ex- 

34—1933 529 

changing lazy remarks. From somewhere to the 
right came the incessant roar of gunfire. A few 
paces away a field of ungathered rye, its ears 
emptied of grain, was waving in the wind. Gri- 
gory crawled into the rye, selected some still 
full ears, husked them, and chewed the grain. 

A group of horsemen rode out of a distant 
plantation and halted, surveying the open 
country, then set off again in the direction of 
the Cossacks. 

"They must be Austrians," the sergeant ex- 
claimed under his "breath. "We'll let them get 
closer and send them a volley. Have your rifles 
ready, boys," he added feverishly. 

The riders steadily drew closer. They were 
six Hungarian hussars, in handsome tunics or- 
namented with white braid and piping. The 
leader, on a big black horse, held his carbine 
in his hands and was quietly laughing. 

"Fire!" the sergeant ordered. The volley went 
echoing through the trees. 

"What's up?" Koshevoi's startled shout came 
from behind the pines. "Whoa, you devil! Keep 
still there!" His voice sounded prosaically loud. 
The hussars galloped in single file into the 
grain. One of them, the leader, fired into the air. 
The last hussar dropped behind, clinging to his 
horse's neck and holding his cap on with his 
left hand. 


Uryupin was the first to leap to his feet. He 
sped off, stumbling through the rye, holding 
his rifle at the trail. Some hundred yards away 
he found a fallen horse kicking and struggling, 
and a Hungarian hussar standing close by, rub- 
bing his knee, which he had hurt in the fall. 
He shouted something to Uryupin and raised 
his hands in token of surrender, staring after 
his retreating comrades. 

All this happened so quickly that Grigory 
hardly had time to take in what was occurring 
before Uryupin had brought back his prisoner. 

"Off with it!" Uryupin shouted at the 
Hungarian, roughly tearing at the hussar's 

The prisoner smiled apprehensively and 
fumbled with his belt, only too willing to hand 
over his sword. But his hands trembled, and he 
could not manage to unfasten the clasp. Grigo- 
ry cautiously assisted him, and the hussar, a 
young, fat-cheeked boy with a tiny mole in the 
corner of his shaven upper lip, thanked him 
with a smile and a nod of the head. He seemed 
glad to be deprived of the weapon and, fum- 
bling in his pocket, pulled out a leather pouch 
and muttered something, offering the Cossacks 

"He's treating us!" the sergeant smiled, and 
felt for his cigarette papers. 

34* 531 

"Have a smoke on foreign baccy," Silantyev 

The Cossacks rolled cigarettes from the hus- 
sar's tobacco and smoked. The strong, black to- 
bacco quickly went to their heads. 

"Where's his rifle?" the sergeant asked, 
drawing greedily at his cigarette. 

"Here it is," Uryupin showed the stitched 
yellow sling from behind his back. 

"He'd better be taken to the squadron. They'll 
want to hear what he's got to say." 

"Who'll take him, boys?" the sergeant asked, 
passing his eyes over his men. 

"I will," Uryupin replied quickly. 

"All right, off with you!" 

The prisoner evidently realized what was to 
happen to him, for he smiled wryly, turned out 
his pockets, and offered the Cossacks some soft 
broken chocolate. 

"Rusin ich . . . Rusin . . . nein Austrische . . ." 
he stammered, gesticulating absurdly and hold- 
ing out the chocolate. 

"Any weapons?" the sergeant asked. "Don't 
rattle away like that, we can't understand you. 
Got a revolver? A bang-bang?" The sergeant 
pulled an imaginary trigger. The prisoner shook 
his head furiously. 

He willingly allowed himself to be searched, 
his fat cheeks quivering. Blood was streaming 


from his torn knee. Talking incessantly, he 
dabbed it with his handkerchief. He had left his 
cap by his horse, and he asked permission to 
go and fetch it and his blanket and notebook, 
in which were photographs of his family. The 
sergeant tried hard to understand what he 
wanted but at last waved his hand in despair: 

"Off with him!" 

Uryupin took his horse and mounted it. Ad- 
justing his rifle across his back, he motioned to 
the prisoner. Encouraged by his smile, the 
Hungarian also smiled and set off at the horse's 
side. With an attempt at familiarity he patted 
Uryupin's knee, but the Cossack harshly flung 
off his hand and pulled on the reins. 

"Get along. None of your tricks!" 

The prisoner guiltily drew away from the 
horse and strode along with a serious face, fre- 
quently looking back at the other Cossacks. 
His fair hair stuck up gaily on the crown of his 
head. So he remained in Grigory's memory: his 
tunic flung over his shoulders, his flaxen tuft 
of hair, and his confident, debonair walk. 

"Melekhov, go and unsaddle his horse!" the 
sergeant ordered, regretfully spitting out the 
end of his cigarette, which he had smoked till 
it burned his fingers. Grigory went to the fall- 
en animal, removed the saddle, and then for 
some undefined reason picked up the cap ly- 


ing close by. He smelled the lining and caught 
the scent of cheap soap and sweat. He carried 
the horse's equipment back to the trees, holding 
the hussar's cap carefully in his left hand. 
Squatting on their haunches, the Cossacks rum- 
maged in the saddle-bags and examined the un- 
familiar design of the saddle. 

"That tobacco he had was good; we should 
have asked him for some more," the sergeant 
sighed at the memory and swallowed down his 

Not many minutes had passed when a horse's 
head appeared through the pines, and Uryupin 
rode up. 

"Why, where's the Austrian? You haven't let 
him go?" the sergeant exclaimed, jumping up 
in alarm. Uryupin rode up waving his whip, dis- 
mounted and stretched his shoulders. 

"What have you done with the Austrian?" 
the sergeant asked again, going up to him. 

"He tried to run away," Uryupin snarled. 

"And so you let him?" 

"We came to an open glade, and he. ... So 
I cut him down." 

"You're a liar!" Grigory shouted. "You 
killed him for nothing." 

"What are you shouting about? What's it to 
do with you?" Uryupin fixed icy eyes on Gri- 
gory's face. 


"What?" Grigory was slowly rising, his hand 
groping along the ground. 

"Don't poke your nose in where it isn't 
wanted! Understand?" the other replied stern- 
ly. Grigory snatched up his rifle and threw it 
to his shoulder. His finger quivered as it felt 
for the trigger, and his ashen face worked an- 

"Now then!" the sergeant exclaimed threat- 
eningly, running to him. He struck the rifle be- 
fore it fired and the bullet cut a branch from a 
tree and went whistling away. 

"What's going on?" Koshevoi gasped. 

Silantyev's jaw dropped and he sat still with 
his mouth open. 

The sergeant pushed Grigory in the chest and 
tore the rifle out of his hands. Uryupin stood 
without changing his position, his feet planted 
apart, his left hand on his belt. 

"Fire again!" 

"I'll kill you!" Grigory rushed towards him. 

"Here, what's all this about? Do you want 
to be court-martialled and shot? Put your arms 
down!" the sergeant shouted. 

Thrusting Grigory back, he placed himself 
with arms outstretched between the two men. 

"You lie, you won't kill me!" Uryupin smiled. 

As they were riding back in the dusk Gri- 
gory was the first to notice the body of the 

hussar lying in the path. He rode up in front 
of the others, and reining in his frightened 
horse, stared down. The man lay with arms 
flung out over the velvety moss, his face down- 
ward, his palms, yellow like autumn leaves, 
turned upward and open. A terrible blow from 
behind had cloven him in two from the shoul- 
der to the belt. 

"Cut him in two . . ." the sergeant muttered 
as he rode past glancing in alarm at the dead 
man's flaxen tuft of hair sticking up lop-sidedly 
from the twisted head. 

The Cossacks rode past the body and on to 
the squadron headquarters in silence. The eve- 
ning shadows deepened. A breeze was driving 
up a black, feathery cloud from the west. From 
a swamp near by came the stagnant scent of 
marshgrass, of rusty dampness and rot. A bit- 
tern boomed. The drowsy silence was broken 
by the jingle of the horses' equipment, and the 
occasional clank of sabre on stirrup, or the 
scrunch of pine cones under the horses' hoofs. 
Through the glade the dark ruddy gleam of 
the departed sun streamed over the pine trunks. 
Uryupin smoked incessantly, and the fleeting 
spark of his cigarette lit up his thick fingers 
with their blackened nails firmly gripping the 


The cloud floated over the forest, emphasiz- 
ing and deepening the fading, inexpressibly 
mournful hues of the evening shadows on the 


The following morning an assault was begun 
on the town. Flanked by cavalry and with cav- 
alry units in reserve, the infantry was to have 
advanced from the forest at dawn. But some- 
where, someone blundered; the two infantry reg- 
iments did not arrive in time; the 211th Rifle 
Regiment was ordered to cross over to the left 
flank, and during the encircling movement in- 
itiated by another regiment it was raked with 
fire from its own batteries. The hopeless con- 
fusion upset the plans, and the attack threat- 
ened to end in failure, if not disaster. While the 
infantry was thus being shuffled about and the 
artillery hauled its guns out of a bog into 
which it had been sent on someone's instruc- 
tions, the order came for the Eleventh Caval- 
ry Division to advance. The wooded and marshy 
land in which they had been held in readiness 
did not permit of an extended frontal attack, 
and in some cases the Cossacks had to advance 
in troops. The Fourth and Fifth squadrons of the 
Twelfth Regiment were held in reserve in the 
forest, and within a few minutes of the general 


advance the roaring, rending sound of the battle 
reached their ears. 

There was a long quivering cheer. Now and 
then a Cossack spoke: 

"That's ours." 

"They've started." 

"What a row that machine-gun's making." 

"Giving our chaps what for," 

"They're not cheering now, are they?" 

"Not there yet," 

"We'll be at it in a minute." 

The two squadrons were drawn up in a 
glade. The stout pine trunks hemmed them in 
and prevented them from following the course 
of the battle. 

A company of infantry went by almost at a 
trot. A brisk, smart-looking N.C.O. dropped 
back to the rear ranks and shouted hoarsely: 

"Order in the ranks!" 

The company tramped past with their equip- 
ment jangling and disappeared into an alder 

Far away now, faintly through the trees came 
that quivering cheer, suddenly breaking off. A 
deep silence fell. 

"They've got there now." 

"Aye, now they're at it . . . killing each 


The Cossacks strained their ears, but could 
hear nothing more; on the right flank the Aus- 
trian artillery thundered away at the attacking 
forces; the roar was interspersed with the rattle 
of machine-guns. 

Grigory glanced around his troop. The Cos- 
sacks were fidgeting nervously, and the horses 
were restive as though troubled by gadflies. 
Uryupin had hung his cap on the saddle-bow 
and was wiping his bald head; at Grigory' s 
side Misha Koshevoi puffed fiercely at his home- 
grown tobacco. All the objects around were 
distinct and exaggeratedly real, as they appear 
after a night of wakefulness. 

The squadrons were held in reserve for three 

The firing now died, now rose to a still high- 
er pitch. An aeroplane roared overhead. After 
circling a few times at a great height, it flew 
eastward, gaining altitude. Milky puffs of burst- 
ing shells dotted the blue as anti-aircraft guns 
opened fire. 

All stocks of tobacco had been exhausted 
and the men were pining in expectation, when 
just before noon an orderly galloped up with 
instructions. The commander of the Fourth 
Squadron immediately led his men off to one 
side. To Grigory it seemed that they were re- 
treating rather than advancing. His own squad- 


ron rode for some twenty minutes through the 
forest, the sound of the battle drawing nearer 
and nearer. Not far behind them a battery was 
firing rapidly; the shells tore through the resist- 
ing air with a shrieking roar. The narrow for- 
est paths broke up the squadron's formation, 
and they emerged into the open in disorder. 
About half a verst away Hungarian hussars were 
sabring the crew of a Russian battery. 

"Squadron, form!" the commander shouted. 

The Cossacks had not completely carried out 
the order when the further command came: 

"Squadron, draw sabres; into the attack, for- 

A blue lightening flash of blades. From a 
swift trot the Cossacks broke into a gallop. 

Six Hungarian hussars were busily occupied 
with the horses of the field-gun on the extreme 
right of the battery. One was dragging at the 
bits of the excited artillery horses, another was 
beating them with the flat of his sword, while 
the others were tugging and pulling at the 
spokes of the carriage wheels. An officer on a 
dock-tailed chocolate mare was giving orders. 
At the sight of the Cossacks the hussars leapt 
to their horses. 

"Closer, closer," Grigory counted to the 
rhythm of his galloping horse. As he galloped, 
one foot momentarily lost its stirrup, and feeling 


himself insecure in his saddle, with inward 
alarm he bent over and fished with his toe for 
the dangling iron. When he had recovered his 
foothold he looked up and saw the six horses 
of the field-gun in front of him. The outrider 
on the foremost in a blood- and brain-spattered 
shirt, was lying over the animal's neck, embrac- 
ing it. Grigory's horse brought its hoof down 
with a sickening scrunch on the body of the 
dead gunner. Two more were lying by an over- 
turned case of shells. A fourth was stretched 
face downward over the gun-carriage. Silantyev 
was just in front of Grigory. The Hungarian of- 
ficer fired at almost point-blank range and the 
Cossack fell, his hands clutching and embrac- 
ing the air. Grigory pulled on his reins and 
tried to approach the officer from the left, the 
better to use his sabre; but the officer saw 
through his manoeuvre and fired under his arm 
at him. Having discharged the contents of his 
revolver, he drew his sword. He parried three 
smashing blows with the skill of a trained fenc- 
er. Grigory gritted his teeth and lunged at him 
yet a fourth time, standing in his stirrups. Their 
horses were now galloping almost side by side, 
and he noticed the ashy clean-shaven cheek of 
the Hungarian and the regimental number sewn 
on his collar. With a feint he diverted the of- 
ficer's attention, and changing the direction of 


his stroke, thrust the point of his sabre between 
the Hungarian's shoulder-blades. He aimed a 
second blow at the neck, just at the top of the 
spine. The officer dropped his sword and reins 
from his hands, and arched his back as if he 
had been bitten, then toppled over his saddle- 
bow. Feeling a terrible relief, Grigory lashed 
at his head, and saw the sabre smash into the 
bone above the ear. 

A terrible blow on the head from behind tore 
consciousness away from Grigory. He felt a 
burning, salty taste of blood in his mouth, and 
realized that he was falling; from one side the 
stubbled earth came whirling and flying up at 
him. The heavy crash of his body against the 
ground brought him momentarily back to real- 
ity. He opened his eyes; blood poured into 
them. A trample past his ears, and the heavy 
breathing of horses. For the last time he opened 
his eyes and saw the pink dilated nostrils of a 
horse, and someone's foot in a stirrup. "The 
end!" the comforting thought crawled through 
his mind like a snake. A roar, and then black 


In the middle of August Yevgeny Listnitsky 
decided to apply for a transfer from the Ata- 
man's Lifeauard Regiment to one of the Cos- 


sack regular army regiments. He made his for- 
mal application, and within three weeks re- 
ceived the appointment he desired. Before leav- 
ing St. Petersburg he wrote to his father: 

Father, I have applied tor a transfer from 
the Ataman's Regiment to the regular army. I 
received my appointment today, and am leav- 
ing for the front to report to the commander 
of the Second Corps. You will probably be sur- 
prised at my decision, hut I want to explain 
my reasons. I am sick of my surroundings. Pa- 
rades, escorts, sentry duty-all this palace ser- 
vice sets my teeth on edge. I am fed up with 
it. I want live work and-if you wish-heroic 
deeds. I suppose it's my Listnitsky blood that is 
beginning to tell, the honourable blood of those 
who ever since the War of 1812 have added 
laurels to the glory of Russian arms. I am leav- 
ing for the front. Please give me your blessing. 

Last week I saw the Emperor before he left 
for headquarters. I worship the man. I was 
standing guard inside the palace, he smiled as 
he passed me and said in English to Rodzyanko, 
who was with him: 'My glorious Guard. I'll 
beat Wilhelm's hand with it' I worship him 
like a schoolgirl. I am not ashamed to confess 
it, although I am over twenty-eight now. I am 
terribly upset by the palace gossip, besmirch- 


ing the Emperor's glorious name. I don't believe 
it, I can't believe it. The other day I nearly 
shot Captain Gromov for uttering disrespectful 
words about Her Imperial Majesty in my pres- 
ence. It was vile, and I told him that only 
people who had the blood of serfs flowing in 
their veins could stoop to such filthy slander. 
The incident took place before several other 
officers. I was beside myself, I drew my revolv- 
er and was about to waste a bullet on the cad, 
but my comrades disarmed me. My life be- 
comes more miserable with each day spent in 
this cesspool. In the guards' regiments- among 
the officers, in particular-there is no genuine 
patriotism, and-one is terrified to utter it- 
there is even no love for the dynasty. This isn't 
the nobility, it's the rabble. This is really the 
explanation of my break with the regiment. I 
cannot associate with people I don't respect. 

Well, that's about all. Please forgive my in- 
coherence, I am in a hurry, I must pack my 
things and leave. Keep well, Papa. I shall write 
you a long letter from the front. 

Your Yevgeny. 

The train for Warsaw left Petrograd* at 8 
p.m. Listnitsky took a drozhki and drove to the 

* St. Petersburg was renamed Petrograd in 1914. 

station. Behind him lay Petrograd in a dove 
blue twinkle of lights. 

The station was noisy and crowded with 
troops. The porter brought in Listnitsky's suit- 
case and, on receiving a few coins, wished the 
young gentleman a good journey. Listnitsky 
removed his swordbelt and coat, and spread a 
flowery silk Caucasian eiderdown on the seat. 
By the window sat a priest with the lean face 
of an ascetic, his provisions from home laid out 
on a small table. Brushing the crumbs from his 
hemp-like beard, he offered some curd-cake to 
a slim dark girl in school uniform sitting in the 
seat opposite him. 

"Try something, my dear." 

"No, thank you." 

"Now don't be shy, a girl with your com- 
plexion needs plenty to eat." 

"No, thank you." 

"Try some of this curd-cake then. Perhaps 
you will take something, sir?" 

Listnitsky glanced down. 

"Are you addressing me?" 

"Yes, indeed." The priest's sombre eyes stared 
piercingly and only the thin lips smiled un- 
der his thin drooping moustache. 

"No, thank you. I don't feel like food now." 

"You are making a mistake. It is no sin to 
eat. Are you in the army?" 

35—1933 545 


"May the Lord help you." 

As Yevgeny dozed off he heard the priest's 
fruity voice as though coming from a distance, 
and it seemed to him that it was the disloyal 
Captain Gromov speaking: 

"It's a miserable income my family gets, you 
know. So I'm off as a chaplain to the forces. 
The Russian people can't fight without faith. 
And you know, from year to year the faith in- 
creases. Of course there are some who fall 
away, but they are among the intelligentsia, 
the peasant holds fast to God." 

The priest's bass voice failed to penetrate 
further into Yevgeny's consciousness. After two 
wakeful nights a refreshing sleep came to him. 
He awoke when the train was a good forty 
versts outside Petrograd. The wheels clattered 
rhythmically, the carriage swayed and rocked, 
in a neighbouring compartment someone was 
singing. The lamp cast slanting lilac shadows. 

The regiment to which Listnitsky was as- 
signed had suffered considerable losses, and had 
been withdrawn from the front to be remounted 
and have its complement made up. The regi- 
mental staff headquarters was at a large market 
village called Bereznyagi. Listnitsky left the 
train at some nameless halt. At the same sta- 
tion a field hospital was detrained. He inquired 


the destination of the hospital from the doctor 
in charge, and learned that it had been trans- 
ferred from the south-western front to the sec- 
tor in which his own regiment was engaged. 
The doctor spoke very unfavourably of his im- 
mediate superiors, cursed the divisional staff 
officers and, tugging his beard, his eyes glow- 
ing behind his pince-nez, poured his jaundiced 
anger into the ears of his chance acquaintance. 

"Can you take me to Bereznyagi?" Listnitsky 
interrupted him. 

"Yes, get into the trap. Lieutenant," he 
agreed, and familiarly twisting the button on 
Listnitsky's coat, rumbled on with his complaints. 

"Just imagine it. Lieutenant. We've travelled 
two hundred versts in cattle trucks only to loaf 
about here, with nothing to do at a time when 
a bloody battle has been going on for two days 
in the section from which my hospital was 
transferred. There were hundreds of wounded 
there who needed our help badly!" 

The doctor repeated the words "bloody bat- 
tle" with spiteful relish. 

"How do you explain such an absurdity?" 
the lieutenant asked out of politeness. 

"How?" The doctor raised his eyebrows iron- 
ically over his pince-nez and roared: "Disor- 
der, chaos, stupidity of the commanding staff 
-that's the reason why. Scoundrels occupy high 

35* 547 

posts and mix things up. Inefficient, lacking 
even common sense. Do you remember Vere- 
sayev's memoirs of the Russo-Japanese war? 
Well, it's the same thing all over again, only 
twice as bad." 

Listnitsky saluted him and went to the carts. 
The angry doctor, his puffy red cheeks trem- 
bling, was croaking behind him: 

"We'll lose the war. Lieutenant. We lost one 
to the Japanese but didn't grow any the wiser. 
We can only brag, that's all." And he went 
along the rails, stepping over little puddles 
filmed with rainbow spangles of oil, and shak- 
ing his head despairingly. 

Dusk was falling as the field hospital ap- 
proached Bereznyagi. The wind ruffled the yel- 
low stubble. Clouds were massing in the west. 
At their height they were a deep violet black, 
but below they shaded into a tender, smoky 
lilac. In the middle the formless mass, piled 
like ice-floes against a river dam, was drawn 
aside. Through the breach poured an orange 
flood of sunset rays, spreading in a spurtling 
fan of light and weaving a Bacchanalian spec- 
trum of colours below. 

A dead horse lay by the roadside ditch. On 
one of its hoofs, flung weirdly upward, the horse- 
shoe gleamed. As the trap jogged past, List- 
nitsky stared at the carcass. The orderly with 


whom he was riding spat at the horse's belly 
and explained: 

"Been guzzling grain . . . been eating too 
much grain . . ." he corrected himself; he was 
about to spit again but for politeness' sake 
swallowed his spittle and wiped his mouth with 
his sleeve. "There it lies, and no one troubles 
to bury it. That's just like the Russians. The 
Germans are different." 

"What do you know about it?" Yevgeny asked 
with unreasoning anger. At that moment he 
was filled with hatred for the orderly's phleg- 
matic face with its suggestion of superiority and 
contempt. The man was grey and dreary like 
a stubble field in September; he was in no way 
different from the thousands of peasant soldiers 
whom Yevgeny had seen on his way to the front. 
They all seemed faded and drooping, dullness 
stared in their eyes, grey, blue, green or any 
other colour, and they strongly reminded him 
of ancient, well-worn copper coins. 

"I lived in Germany for three years before 
the war," the orderly replied unhurriedly. In 
his voice was the same shade of superiority 
and contempt that showed in his face. "I worked 
at a cigar factory in Konigsberg," the order- 
ly continued lazily, flicking the horse with the 
knotted rein. 

"Hold your tongue!" Listnitsky commanded 


sternly, and turned to glance at the horse's 
head with its forelock tousled over its eyes and 
its bare sun-yellowed row of teeth. 

One leg was raised and bent in an arch; the 
hoof was slightly cracked but the hollow had a 
smooth grey-blue gleam about it and the lieu- 
tenant could tell by the leg and by the finely 
chiselled pastern that the horse was young and 
of a good breed. 

They drove on over the bumpy road. The 
colours faded in the west, a wind sprang up and 
scattered the clouds. Behind them the leg of the 
dead horse stuck up like a broken wayside cross. 
As Yevgeny stared back at it, a sheaf of rays fell 
suddenly on the horse, and in their orange light 
the leg with its sorrel hair blossomed unexpect- 
edly like some marvellous leafless branch of 

As the field hospital drove into Bereznyagi 
it passed a transport of wounded soldiers. An 
elderly Byelorussian, the owner of the first wag- 
on, strode along at his horse's head, the hem- 
pen reins gathered in his hands. On the wagon 
lay a Cossack with bandaged head. He was 
resting on his elbow, but his eyes were closed 
wearily as he chewed bread and spat out the 
black mess. At his side a soldier was stretched 
out; over his buttocks his torn trousers were 
horribly shrivelled and taut with congealed 


blood. He was cursing savagely, without lift- 
ing his head. Listnitsky was horrified as he lis- 
tened to the intonation of the man's voice, for 
it sounded exactly like a believer fervently mut- 
tering prayers. On the second Vv^agon five or six 
soldiers were lying side by side. One of them, 
possessed of a feverish gaiety, his eyes unnatu- 
rally bright and inflamed, was telling a story: 

". . . It seems an ambassador from that em.per- 
or of theirs came here and made an offer about 
having peace. The thing is it was an honest 
man who told me. I'm hoping he wasn't just 
spinning a yarn." 

"I expect he was," one of the others rejoined 
doubtfully, shaking his round head that bore 
the scars of a recent attack of scrofula. 

"But perhaps he did really come here," re- 
sponded a third man who was sitting with his 
back to the horses, in a soft Volga country 

On the fifth wagon three Cossacks were com- 
fortably seated. As Listnitsky passed they 
stared silently at him, their harsh dusty faces 
showing no sign of respect for an officer. 

"Good-day, Cossacks!" the lieutenant greeted 

"Good-day, Your Honour," the handsome sil- 
ver-moustached Cossack sitting nearest the driv- 
er replied indifferently. 


"What regiment are you?" Listnitsky contin- 
ued, trying to make out the number on the 
Cossack's blue shoulder-strap. 

"The Twelfth." 

"Where is your regiment now?" 

"We couldn't say." 

"Well, where were you wounded?" 

"By the village . . . not far from here." 

The Cossacks whispered among themselves 
and one of them, holding his roughly bandaged 
hand with his sound hand, jumped down from 
the wagon. 

"Just a minute. Your Honour." He padded 
across the road on bare feet, carefully nursing 
his bullet-torn hand, which was already show- 
ing signs of inflammation. 

"You wouldn't be from Vyeshenskaya, would 
you? You're not Listnitsky?" 

"Yes, I am." 

"That's what we thought. You haven't got 
anything to smoke, have you. Your Honour? 
Give us something, for Christ's sake, we're dy- 
ing for a smoke." 

He walked along by the trap, gripping its 
painted side, Listnitsky took out his cigarette 

"Could you spare us a dozen? There are 
three of us, you know," the Cossack smiled 


Listnitsky emptied the contents of his case 
on to the man's broad brown palm and asked: 
"Many wounded in your regiment?" 

"A couple of dozen." 

"Heavy losses?" 

"A lot of us have been killed. Light a match 
for me. Your Honour. Thank you kindly." The 
Cossack took the light and as he dropped be- 
hind he shouted: "Three Cossacks from Tatarsky, 
near your estate, have been killed. They've 
done in a lot of us Cossacks." 

He waved his sound hand and went to catch 
up with the wagon. The wind flapped through 
his unbelted tunic. 

The commander of Listnitsky's new regiment 
had his headquarters in the house of a priest. 
On the square Listnitsky took leave of the doc- 
tor, who had kindly offered him a seat in the 
hospital trap, and went off to find regimental 
headquarters, brushing the dust off his uniform 
as he walked. A vividly red-bearded sergeant- 
major, busy changing the guard, marched past 
him with a sentry. He saluted smartly and, in 
reply to Listnitsky's question, pointed out the 
house. The place was very quiet and slack, like 
all staff headquarters situated away from the 
front line. Clerks were bent over a table; an 
elderly captain was laughing into the mouth- 
piece of a field-telephone. The flies droned 


around the windows, and distant telephone bells 
buzzed like mosquitoes. An orderly conducted 
Yevgeny to the regimental commander's private 
room. They were met on the threshold by a tall 
colonel with a scar on his chin, who greeted 
him coldly, and with a gesture invited him into 
the room. As he closed the door the colonel 
passed his hand over his hair with a gesture of 
ineffable weariness, and said in a soft, monoto- 
nous voice: 

"The brigade staff informed me yesterday 
that you were on your way. Sit down." 

He questioned Yevgeny about his previous 
service, asked for the latest news from the cap- 
ital, inquired about his journey, but not once 
during all their brief conversation did he raise 
his weary eyes to Listnitsky's face. 

"He must have had a hard time at the front; 
he looks mortally tired," Yevgeny thought sym- 
pathetically. As though deliberately to disillu- 
sion him, the colonel scratched the bridge of 
his nose with his sword-hilt and remarked: 

"Well, Lieutenant, you m.ust make the ac- 
quaintance of your brother officers. You must ex- 
cuse me, I haven't been to bed for three nights 
running. In this dead hole there's nothing to do 
except play cards and get drunk." 

Listnitsky saluted and turned to the door, 
hiding his contempt with a smile. He went out 


reflecting unfavourably on this first meeting 
with his commanding officer, and ironically 
amused at the respect which the colonel's tired 
appearance and the scar on his chin had in- 
stilled in him. 


The division was allotted the task of forcing 
the river Styr and taking the enemy in the rear. 

In a few days Listnitsky got used to the offi- 
cers of the regiment and was quickly drawn 
into the atmosphere of battle, which drove out 
the feeling of ease and complacency that had 
crept into his soul. 

The operations to force the river were car- 
ried through brilliantly. The division shattered a 
considerable concentration of enemy forces on 
their left flank, and came out in the rear of the 
main forces. The Austrians attempted to initi- 
ate a counter-offensive with the aid of Magyar 
cavalry, but the Cossack batteries swept them 
away with shrapnel, and the Magyar squadrons 
retreated in disorder, cut to pieces by flanking 
machine-gun fire and pursued by the Cossacks. 

Listnitsky went into the counter-attack with 
his regiment. The troop he commanded lost one 
Cossack, and four were wounded. One of them, 
a young, hook-nosed man was crushed under 
his dead horse. Outwardly calm, the lieutenant 


rode past trying not to hear the Cossack's low 
hoarse groaning. He was wounded in the shoul- 
der and kept beseeching the Cossacks riding 

"Brothers, don't leave me. Get me free of the 
horse, brothers. . . ." 

His low, tortured voice could be heard call- 
ing faintly, but there was no spark of pity in 
the surging hearts of the other Cossacks, or if 
there was, it was crushed by the will that drove 
them on relentlessly, forbidding them to dis- 
mount. The troop rode on for five minutes at a 
trot, letting the horses recover their wind. Half 
a verst away the scattered Magyar squadrons 
were in full retreat; here and there among them 
appeared the grey-blue uniforms of the enemy 
infantry. An Austrian baggage train crawled 
along the crest of a hill with the farewell smoke 
of shell bursts hovering above it. From the left 
a battery was bombarding the train, and its dull 
thunder rolled over the fields and echoed 
through the forest. 

The sergeant-major leading the battalion gave 
the command "canter" and the three squadrons 
broke into a flagging trot. The horses swayed 
under their riders and foam scattered from their 
flanks in yellowish pink blossoms. 

The regiment halted for the night in a small 
village. The twelve officers were all crowded 


into one hut. Broken with fatigue and hunger, 
they lay down to sleep. The field-kitchen arrived 
only about midnight. Cornet Chubov brought in 
a pot of soup. The rich smell awakened the offi- 
cers and within a few minutes, their faces still 
puffy with sleep, they were eating in greedy si- 
lence, making up for the two days lost in battle. 
After the late meal their previous sleepiness 
passed, and they lay on their cloaks on the 
straw talking and smoking. 

Junior captain Kalmykov, a tubby little of- 
ficer whose face as well as his name bore the 
traces of his Mongolian origin, gesticulated 
fiercely as he declared: 

"This war is not for me. I was born four 
centuries too late. You know, I shan't live to 
see the end of the war." 

"Oh, drop your fortune-telling!" 

"It's not fortune-telling. It's my predestined 
end. I'm atavistic, and I'm superfluous here. 
When we were under fire today I trembled with 
frenzy; I can't stand not seeing the enemy. The 
horrible feeling I get is equivalent to fear. 
They fire at you from several versts away, 
and you ride like a bustard hunted over the 

"I had a look at an Austrian howitzer in Ku- 
palka. Have any of you seen one, gentlemen?" 
asked Captain Atamanchukov, licking the re- 


mains of tinned meat off his ginger moustache, 
which was clipped in the English style. 

"A wonderful piece of work! Those sights, the 
whole mechanism-sheer perfection," the en- 
thusiastic reply came from Cornet Chubov, who 
had by this time emptied a second mess-tin of 

"I have seen it, but I have nothing to say. I 
am a complete ignoramus where artillery is con- 
cerned. To me it was just a gun like any other, 
with a big barrel, that's all." 

"I envy those who fought in the old-tim.e, 
primitive fashion/' Kalmykov continued, turning 
to Listnitsky. "To thrust at your opponent in 
honourable battle, and to split him in two with 
your sword-that's the sort of warfare I under- 
stand. But this is the devil knows what." 

"In future wars cavalry will play no part. It 
will be abolished." 

"It simply won't exist." 

"Well, that I couldn't say." 

"No doubt about it." 

"But you can't replace men by machines.- 
You're going too far." 

"I'm not referring to men, but to horses. Mo- 
tor cycles or motor cars will take their place." 

"I can just imagine a motor squadron!" 

"That's all nonsense!" Kalmykov interposed 
excitedly. "An absurd fantasy! Armies will use 


horses for a long time yet. We don't know what 
war will be like in two or three centuries' time, 
but today cavalry. . . ." 

"What will you do with the cavalry when 
there are trenches all along the front? Tell me 

"They'll break through the trenches, ride 
across them, and make sorties far to the rear 
of the enemy; that will be the cavalry's task." 


"Oh, shut up and let's get some sleep." 

The argument tailed off, and snores took its 
place. Listnitsky lay on his back, breathing the 
pungent scent of the musty straw on which he 
had spread his cloak. Kalmykov lay down at 
his side. 

"You should have a talk with the volunteer 
Bunchuk," he whispered to Yevgeny. "He's in 
your troop. A very interesting fellow!" 

"In what way?" Listnitsky asked, as he 
turned his back to Kalmykov. 

"He's a Russianized Cossack. Lived in Mos- 
cow. An ordinary worker, but interested in the 
question of machinery. He's a first-rate ma- 
chine-gunner, too." 

"Let's go to sleep," Listnitsky proposed. 

"Perhaps we should," Kalmykov agreed, 
thinking of something else. He frowned sheep- 
ishly: "You must forgive me, Lieutenant, for 


the way my feet smell. You know, I haven't 
changed my socks for a fortnight, they are 
simply rotting with sweat. . . . It's really foul. 
I must get a pair of foot-cloths from one of the 

"Not at all," Listnitsky mumbled as he 
dropped asleep. 

Listnitsky completely forgot Kalmykov's refer- 
ence to Bunchuk, but the very next day chance 
brought him into contact with the volunteer. The 
regimental commander ordered him to ride at 
dawn on reconnaissance patrol, and if possible 
to establish contact with the infantry regiment 
which was continuing the advance on the left 
flank. Stumbling about the yard in the half-light, 
and falling over the bodies of sleeping Cossacks, 
Listnitsky found the troop sergeant and roused 

"I want five men to go on a reconnaissance 
with me. Have my horse got ready. Quickly!" 

While he was waiting for the men to assem- 
ble, a stocky Cossack came to the door of the 

"Your Honour," the man said, "the sergeant 
will not let me go with you because it isn't my 
turn. Will you give me permission to go?" 

"Are you out for promotion? Or have you 
done something wrong?" Listnitsky asked, try- 
ing to make out the man's face in the darkness. 


"I haven't done anything." 

"All right, you can come," Listnitsky decid- 
ed. As the Cossack turned to go, he shouted 
after him: 

"Hey! Tell the sergeant. . . ." 

"My name's Bunchuk," the Cossack interrupt- 

"A volunteer?" 


Recovering from his confusion, Listnitsky 
corrected his style of address: "Well, Bunchuk, 
please tell the sergeant to. . . . Oh, all right, I'll 
tell him myself." 

The morning darkness thinned as Listnitsky 
led his men out of the village past sentries and 
outposts. When they had ridden some distance 
he called: 

"Volunteer Bunchuk!" 


"Please bring your horse up beside me." 

Bunchuk brought his commonplace mount 
alongside Listnitsky's thoroughbred. 

"What village are you from?" Listnitsky 
asked him, studying the man's profile. 


"May I be informed of the reason that com- 
pelled you to join up as a volunteer?" 

"Certainly!" Bunchuk replied with the slight- 
est trace of a smile. The unwinking gaze of 

36—1933 JS61 

his greenish eyes was harsh and fixed. "I'm in- 
terested in the art of war. I want to master it." 

"There are military schools established for 
that purpose." 

"There are." 

"Well, what is your reason?" 

"I want to study it in practice first. I can get 
the theory afterwards." 

"What were you before the war broke out?" 

"A worker." 

"Where were you working?" 

"In Petersburg, Rostov, and the armament 
works at Tula. I'm thinking of applying to be 
transferred to a machine-gun detachment." 

"Do you know anything about machine- 

"1 can handle the Bertier, Madsen, Maxim, 
Hotchkiss, Vickers, Lewis, and several other 

"Oho! I'll have a word with the regimental 
commander about it!" 

"Please do." 

Listnitsky glanced again at Bunchuk's stocky 
figure. It reminded him of the Don-side cork- 
elm. There was nothing remarkable about the 
man. Only the firmly pressed jaws and the direct 
challenging glance distinguished him from the 
mass of other rank-and-file Cossacks around 
him. He smiled but rarely, with only the corners 


of his lips; and even then his eyes grew no soft- 
er, but still retained a faint gleam of aloofness. 
Coldly restrained, he was exactly like the cork- 
elm, the tree of a stern, iron hardness that grows 
on the grey, loose soil of the inhospitable Don- 
side earth. 

They rode in silence for a while. Bunchuk 
rested his broad palms on his blistered saddle- 
bow. Listnitsky selected a cigarette, and as he 
lit it from Bunchuk's match he smelled the 
sweet resinous scent of horse's sweat on the 
man's hand. The back of his hand was thickly 
covered with brown hair, and Listnitsky felt an 
involuntary desire to stroke it. 

Swallowing down the pungent tobacco 
smoke, he said: 

"When we get to the wood, you and another 
Cossack will take the track running off to the 
left. Do you see it?" 


"If you don't come across our infantry by 
the time you have gone half a verst, turn 

"Very good." 

They broke into a trot. 

At a turn of the road into the forest stood 
a clump of maidenly birches. Beyond them the 
eye was wearied by the joyless yellow of stunt- 
ed pines, the straggling forest undergrowth 

36* 563 

and bushes crushed by Austrian baggage trains. 
On the right the earth trembled with the thun- 
der of distant artillery, but by the birches it 
was inexpressibly quiet. The earth was drink- 
ing in the heavy dew; the pink-hued grasses 
were flooded with autumnal colours that cried 
of the speedy death of colour. Listnitsky halted 
by the birches and, taking out his binoculars, 
studied the rise beyond the forest. A bee settled 
on the honey-coloured hilt of his sabre. 

"Stupid!" Bunchuk remarked quietly and 

"What is?" Listnitsky turned to him. 
With his eyes Bunchuk indicated the bee, and 
Listnitsky smiled: 

"Its honey will be bitter, don't you think?" 
It was not Bunchuk that answered him. From 
a distant clump of pines a piercing magpie 
stutter shattered the silence, and a spurt of 
bullets tore through the birches, sending a 
branch crashing on to the neck of Listnitsky's 

They turned and galloped back towards the 
village, urging on their horses with shout and 
whip. The Austrian machine-gun flung the rest 
of its ammunition after them. 

After this first encounter Listnitsky had more 
than one talk with the volunteer Bunchuk. On 
each occasion he was struck by the inflexible 


will that gleamed in the man's eyes, and could 
not discover what lay behind the intangible 
secrecy that veiled the face of one so ordinary- 
looking. Bunchuk always spoke with a smile 
compressed in his firm lips, and he gave List- 
nitsky the impression that he was applying 
a definite rule to trace a tortuous path. He was 
transferred to a machine-gun detachment. A 
few days later, while the regiment was resting 
behind the front, Listnitsky overtook him 
walking along by the wall of a burned-out 

"Ah! Volunteer Bunchuk!" 

The Cossack turned his head and saluted. 

"Where are you going?" Listnitsky asked, 

"To my commander." 

"Then we're going the same way." 

For some time they walked along the street 
of the ruined village in silence. 

People were moving about round the few 
outbuildings that remained intact, horsemen 
rode past, a field-kitchen was smoking in the 
middle of the street with a long queue of Cos- 
sacks waiting their turn beside it; there was 
a cold drizzle in the air. 

"Well, are you learning the art of war?" 
Listnitsky asked, glancing sidelong at Bun- 
chuk, who was slightly behind him. 

"Yes, I am," 


"What do you propose to do after the war?" 
asked the lieutenant, glancing for some reason 
at Bunchuk's hands. 

"Some will reap what is sown . . . but I shall 
see," Bunchuk replied. 

"How am I to interpret that remark?" 

"You know the proverb, 'Those who sow 
the wind shall reap the whirlwind'? Well, that's 

"But dropping the riddles?" 

"It's quite clear as it is. Excuse me, I'm 
turning to the left here." 

He put his fingers to the peak of his cap and 
turned off the road. Shrugging his shoulders, 
Listnitsky stood staring after him. 

"Is the fellow trying to be original, or is he 
just someone with a bee in his bonnet?" he 
wondered in irritation, as he stepped into the 
squadron-commander's well-kept dug-out. 


The second and third lines of reserves were 
called up together. The villages of the Don 
were as deserted as though everybody had gone 
out to mow or reap at the busy time of harvest. 

But a bitter harvest was reaped along the 
frontiers that year; death dogged the footsteps 
of the men, and many a Cossack's wife wailed 


bare-headed for her departed one: "Oh, my 
darling, who has taken you from me?" The 
dear heads were laid low on all sides, the Cos- 
sack blood was shed, and glassy-eyes, unwake- 
able, they rotted while the artillery thundered 
its funeral dirge in Austria, in Poland, in Prus- 
sia. . . . For the eastern wind did not carry the 
weeping of their wives and mothers to their 

The flower of the Cossackry had left the vil- 
lages and perished amid the lice and horror of 
the battle-fields. 

One pleasant September day a milky gossa- 
mer web, fine and cottony, hung over the vil- 
lage of Tatarsky. The bloodless sun smiled like 
one bereft, the stern, virginal blue sky was re- 
pellently clear and proud. Beyond the Don 
the forest was a jaundiced yellow, the poplar 
gleamed pallidly, the oak dropped occasional 
figured leaves; only the alder remained gaudi- 
ly green, gladdening the keen eye of the mag- 
pie with its hardiness. 

That day Pantelei Prokofyevich received a 
letter from the army on active service. Dunya 
brought it back from the post. As the postmas- 
ter handed it to her he bowed, shook his old 
bald pate, and deprecatingly opened his arms. 

"Forgive me for the love of God for opening 
the letter. Tell your father I opened it. I badly 


wanted to know how the war was going. . . . 
Forgive me and tell Pantelei Prokofyevich what 
I said." He seemed confused and, unaware of 
the ink-smear on his nose, came out of his of- 
fice v/ith Dunya, muttering something unintel- 
ligible. Filled with foreboding, she returned 
home, and fumbled at her breast a long time 
for the letter. 

"Hurry up!" Pantelei shouted, plucking at 
his beard. 

As she drew it out she said breathlessly: 

"The postmaster told me he had read the let- 
ter and that you mustn't be angry with him." 

"The devil take him! Is it from Grigory?" 
the old man asked, breathing agitatedly into 
her face. "From Grigory? Or from Pyotr?" 

"No, Father. ... I don't know the writing." 

"Read it!" Ilyinichna cried, tottering heavily 
to the bench. Her legs were giving her much 
trouble these days. Natalya ran in from the 
yard and stood by the stove with her head on 
one side, her elbows pressing into her breasts. 
A smile trembled like sunlight on her lips. She 
still hoped for a message from Grigory or the 
slightest reference to her in his letters, in re- 
ward for her dog-like devotion and fidelity. 

"Where's Darya?" Ilyinichna whispered. 

"Shut up!" Pantelei shouted. "Read it!" he 
added to Dunya. 


" 1 have to inform you,' " she began, then, 
slipping off the bench where she had been sit- 
ting, she screamed: 

"Father! Mother. . .! Oh, Mama Our Gri- 

sha. . . ! Oh, oh. . . ! Grisha's . . . been killed." 

Entangled among the leaves of a half-dead 
geranium, a wasp beat against the window, 
buzzing furiously. In the yard a hen clucked 
contentedly; through the open door came the 
sound of ringing, childish laughter. 

A shudder ran across Natalya's face, though 
her lips still wore her quivering smile. Rising 
to his feet, his head twitching paralytically, 
Pantelei stared in frantic perplexity at Dunya. 

The communication read: 

I have to inform you that your son Grigory 
Panteleyeuich Melekhou, a Cossack in the 
Twelfth Don Cossack Regiment, was killed on 
the 16th of September near the town of Ka- 
menka-Strumilovo. Your son died the death of 
the brave; may that be your consolation in 
your irreplaceable loss. His personal effects will 
be handed to his brother, Pyotr Melekhov. His 
horse will remain with the regiment. 

Commander of the Fourth Squadron, 

Junior Captain Polkovnikov. 
Field Army 

18th September, 1914. 


After the arrival of the letter Pantelei seemed 
suddenly to wilt. He grew noticeably old- 
er every day. His memory began to go and 
his mind lost its clarity. He walked about with 
bowed back, his face an iron hue; and the fe- 
verish gleam in his eyes betrayed his mental 

He put the letter away under the icon. Sever- 
al times a day he went into the porch to beckon 
to Dunya. When she came in he would 
order her to get the letter and read it to him, 
fearfully glancing at the door of the best room 
where his wife was mourning. "Read it quiet- 
ly, to yourself like," he would say, winking 
cunningly. Choking down her tears, Dunya 
would read the first sentence, and then Pantelei, 
squatting on his heels, would raise his huge, 
hoof-like brown hand: 

"All right. I know the rest. Take the letter 
back and put it where you found it. Quietly, or 
Mother. . . ." And he would wink repulsively, 
his whole face contorted like burnt tree-bark. 

He began to go grey, and the dazzling grey 
hairs swiftly patched his head and wove 
threads into his beard. He grew gluttonous too, 
and gobbled his food. 

Nine days after the requiem mass, the Me- 
Ickhovs invited Father Vissarion and their rela- 


tions to the repast in memory of the fallen Gri- 
gory. Pantelei ate fast and ravenously with the 
noodles hanging from his beard like ringlets. 
Ilyinichna, who had been anxiously watching 
him during the past few days, burst into tears; 

"Father, what's the matter with you?" 

"Eh?" the old man said with a start, raising 
his bleary eyes from his plate. Ilyinichna 
waved her hand and turned away, pressing her 
handkerchief to her eyes. 

"Father, you eat as though you had fasted for 
three days," Darya said angrily, her eyes glit- 

"I eat...? All right, I won't," Pantelei re- 
plied, overcome with embarrassment. He 
glanced around the table, then, pressing his lips 
together, and sitting with knitted brows, he 
lapsed into silence, not even replying to ques- 

"Have courage, Prokofyevich! What's the good 
of grieving so much?" Father Vissarion attempt- 
ed to rally him when the meal was ended. 
"Grigory's death was a holy one; don't offend 
God, old man. Your son has received a crown 
of thorns for his tsar and his fatherland. And 
you . . . it's a sin, and God won't pardon you." 

"That's just it. Father! 'Died the death of the 
brave.' That's what his commander said." 

Kissing the priest's hand, the old man leaned 


against the door-post, and for the first time 
since the arrival of the letter he burst into 
tears, his body shaking violently. 

From that day he regained his self-control 
and recovered a little from the blow. 

Each licked the wound in his own way. When 
Natalya heard Dunya scream that Grigory was 
dead she ran into the yard. "I'll kill myself. 
It's all over for me," the thought drove her on 
like fire. She struggled in Darya's arms, and 
then with joyful relief she swooned, for at least 
it postponed the moment when consciousness 
would return and violently remind her of what 
had happened. She passed a week in dull ob- 
livion, and returned to the world of reality 
changed, quieter, gnawed by a black impo- 

An invisible corpse haunted the Melekhovs' 
house and the living breathed in its mouldering 


On the twelfth day after the news of Gri- 
gory's death the Melekhovs received two letters 
by the same post from Pyotr. Dunya read them 
at the post office, and went speeding home like 
a stalk caught up by the wind, then swayed 
and stopped, leaning against a fence. She 
caused a great fluster in the village, and carried 


an indescribable feeling of agitation into the 

"Grisha's alive! Our dear one's alive!" she 
sobbed and cried when still some distance 
away. "Pyotr's written. Grisha's wounded, but 
he isn't dead. He's alive, alive!" 

In his letter dated September 20th, Pyotr 
had written: 

Greetings, dear parents, I must tell you that 
our Grisha all but gave up the ghost, but now. 
glory be, he's alive and well, as we wish you in 
the name oi the Lord God health and well-be- 
ing. Close to the town oi Kamenka-Strumilo- 
vo his regiment was in battle, and in the attack 
the Cossacks oi his troop saw him cut down by 
a Hungarian hussar, and Grigory iell irom his 
horse and aiter that nobody knew anything, 
and when I asked them they could tell me noth- 
ing. But aiterwards I learned irom Misha 
Koshevoi that Grigory lay till night-time, but 
that in the night he came round and started 
crawling away. He crawled along making his 
way by the stars, and came across one oi our 
oiBcers wounded in the belly and legs by a 
shell. He picked him up and dragged him ior 
six versts. And ior this Grigory has been given 
the Cross oi St. George and has been raised to 
the rank oi corporal. Think oi that! His wound 


isn't serious, he only received a skin wound on 
the scalp, hut he tell iroin his horse, and got 
stunned. Misha told me he is already hack at 
the front. You must excuse this letter, I'm 
writing in the saddle. 

In his second letter Pyotr asked his family 
to send him some dried cherries from their own 
orchard, and told them not to forget him but to 
write more often. In the same letter he upbraid- 
ed Grigory because, so he had been told, he 
was not looking after his horse properly, and 
Pyotr was angry, as the horse was really his. 
He asked his father to write to Grigory, and 
said he had sent a message to him that if he 
did not look after the horse he would give him 
one on the nose that would draw blood, even 
if he had got the Cross of St. George. The letter 
ended with an endless list of greetings and be- 
tween the crumpled, rain-blotted lines it was not 
hard to detect a feeling of bitterness and grief. 
Evidently Pyotr was not having an easy time at 
the front either. 

Old Pantelei was a pitiful sight to see. He 
was dazed with joy. He seized both letters and 
went into the village with them, stopping all 
who could read and forcing them to read the 
letters. It was not vanity but belated joy made 
him brag all through the village, 


"Aha! What do you think of my Grisha?" he 
raised his hand when the stumbling reader 
came to the passage where Pyotr described Gri- 
gory's exploit. "He's the first to get the Cross 
in our village," he declared proudly. And jeal- 
ously taking the letters, he would thrust them 
into the lining of his cap and go off in search 
of another reader. 

Even Sergei Mokhov, who saw him through 
his shop window, came out, taking off his 

"Come in for a minute, Prokofyevich!" 

Inside, he squeezed the old man's fist in his 
own puffy white hand and said: 

"Well, I congratulate you; I congratulate 
you. You must be proud to have such a son. 
I've just been reading about his exploit in the 

"Is it in the papers?" Pantelei's throat went 
dry and he swallowed hard. 

"Yes, I've just read it." 

Mokhov took a packet of the finest Turkish 
tobacco down from a shelf, and poured out 
some expensive sweets into a bag without 
troubling to weigh them. Handing the tobacco 
and sweets to Pantelei, he said: 

"When you send Grigory Panteleyevich a 
parcel, send him a greeting and these from 


"My God! What an honour for Grisha! The 
whole village is talking about him. I've lived 
to see ..." the old man muttered, as he went 
down the steps of the shop. He blew his nose 
violently and wiped the tears from his cheek 
with his sleeve, thinking: "I'm getting old. Tears 
come too easily. Ah, Pantelei, what has life 
done to you? You were as hard as flint once, 
you could carry eight poods on your back as 
easily as a feather, but now. . . . Grisha's busi- 
ness has taken it out of you a bit!" 

As he limped along the street, pressing the 
bag of sweets to his chest, his thoughts again 
fluttered around Grigory like a lapwing over a 
marsh, and the words of Pyotr's letter wan- 
dered through his mind. Grigory's father-in-law 
Korshunov was coming along the road, and he 
called to Pantelei: 

"Hey, Pantelei, stop a minute!" 

The two men had not met since the day war 
was declared. A cold, constrained relationship 
had arisen between them after Grigory left 
home. Miron was annoyed with Natalya for 
humbling herself to Grigory, and for forcing 
her father to endure a similar humiliation. 

"The wandering bitch," he would rail against 
Natalya to his family. "Why can't she live at 
home instead of going to her in-laws. As if they 


fed her better there. It's through her foolish- 
ness that her father has to bear such shame and 
can't hold up his head in the village." 

Miron went straight up to Pantelei and 
thrust out his oak-coloured hand: 

"How are you?" 

"Thanks be to God. . . ." 

"Been shopping?" 

Pantelei shook his head. "These are gifts to 
our hero. Sergei Platonovich read about his 
deed in the peapers and has sent him some 
sweets and tobacco. Do you know, the tears came 
to his eyes," the old man boasted, staring fixed- 
ly into Miron's face in the attempt to discover 
what impression his words had made. 

The shadows gathered under Miron's blond 
eye-lashes, giving his face a condescending 

"I see!" he croaked, and turned to cross the 
street. Pantelei hurried after him, opening the 
bag and trembling with anger. 

"Here, try these chocolates, they're as sweet 
as honey," he said spitefully. "Try them, I 
offer them in my son's name. Your life is none 
too sweet, so you can have one; and your son 
may earn such an honour some day, but then he 
may not." 

"Don't pry into my life. ... I know best 
what it's like." 

37—1933 577 

''Just try one, do me the favour." Pantelei 
bowed with exaggerated affability, running in 
front of Miron and fumbling with the paper 

"We're not used to sweets," Miron pushed 
away his hand. "Gifts from strangers are bad 
for our teeth. It was hardly decent of you to go 
begging alms for your son. If you're in need, 
you can come to me. Our Natalya's eating your 
bread. We could have given to you in your pov- 

"Don't you tell those lies, no one has ever 
begged for alms in our family. You're too 
proud, much too proud. Maybe it's because 
you're so rich that your daughter came to us." 

"Wait!" Miron said authoritatively. "There's 
no point in our quarrelling. I didn't stop you 
to have a quarrel. I've some business I want to 
talk over with you." 

"We have no business to talk over." 

"Yes, we have. Come on." 

He seized Pantelei's sleeve and dragged him 
into a side-street. They walked out of the vil- 
lage into the steppe. 

"Well, what's the business?" Pantelei asked 
in more amiable tones. He glanced sidelong at 
Korshunov's freckled face. Folding the tail of 
his long coat under him, Miron sat down on 


the bank of a ditch and pulled out his old to- 
bacco pouch. 

"You know, Prokofyevich, the devil knows 
why you went for me like a quarrelsome cock. 
As it is, things aren't too good, are they? I 
want to know," his voice changed to a hard, 
rough tone, "how long your son's going to 
make a laughing-stock of Natalya. Tell me 

"You must ask him about it, not me." 

"I've nothing to ask him; you're the head of 
your house and I'm talking to you." 

Pantelei squeezed the chocolate he still held 
in his hand, and the sticky mess oozed through 
his fingers. He wiped his palm on the 
brown clay of the bank and silently began to 
make a cigarette, opening the packet of Turkish 
tobacco and taking a pinch. Then he offered 
the packet to Miron. Korshunov took it with- 
out hesitation and made a cigarette from the 
tobacco Mokhov had presented so generously. 
Above them hung a sumptuous foaming white 
cloud, and a tender thread stretched up to- 
wards it, wavering in the wind. 

The day came to its close. The September 
stillness was lulled in peace and inexpressible 
sweetness. The sky had lost its full summer 
gleam, and was a hazy dove colour. Apple- 
leaves, brought from God knows where, 

37* 579 

scattered the ditch with vivid purple. The road 
disappeared over the undulating ridge of the 
hill; in vain did it beckon towards the unknown 
regions beyond the emerald, dream-vague 
thread of the horizon. Held down to their huts 
and their daily round, the people pined in their 
labour, exhausted their strength on the threshing- 
floor; and the road, a deserted, yearning track, 
flowed across the horizon into the unseen. The 
wind trod along it, stirring up the dust. 

"This is weak tobacco, it's like grass," Miron 
said, puffing out a cloud of smoke. 

"It's weak, but it's pleasant," Pantelei half- 

"Give me an answer, Pantelei," Korshunov 
asked in a quieter tone, putting out his ciga- 

"Grigory never says anything about it in his 
letters. He's wounded now." 

"Yes, I've heard. . . ." 

"What will come after, I don't know. Maybe 
he'll be killed, and then what?" 

"But how can it go on like this?" Miron 
blinked distractedly and miserably. "There she 
is, neither maid nor wife nor honest widow, 
and it's a disgrace. If I had known it was going 
to turn out like this I'd never have allowed the 
match-makers across my threshold. Ah, Pante- 


lei . . . Pantelei. . . . Each is sorry for his own 
child. Blood is thicker than water." 

"How can I help it?" Pantelei replied with 
restrained frenzy. "Tell me! Do you think I'm 
glad my son left home? Was it any gain to me? 
You people!" 

"Write to him," Miron dictated, and the 
dust trickling from under his hands into the 
ditch kept time with his words. "Let him say 
once and for all." 

"He's got a child by that. . . ." 

"And he'll have a child by this!" Korshunov 
shouted, turning livid. "Can you treat a human 
being like that? Huh? She's already tried to 
kill herself and is maimed for life. ... Do you 
want to trample her into the grave? Huh. . . . 
His heart, his heart . . ." Miron hissed, tearing 
at his breast with one hand, tugging at Pante- 
lei's coat tails with the other. "Is it a wolf's 
heart he's got?" 

Pantelei wheezed and turned away. 

"The woman's devoted to him, and there's 
no other life for her without him. Is she a serf 
in your service?" 

"She's more than a daughter to us! Hold 
your tongue!" Pantelei shouted, and he rose 
from the bank. 

They parted without a word of farewell, and 
went off in different directions. 



When swept out of its normal channel, life 
scatters into many streams. It is difficult to 
foresee which it will take in its treacherous and 
winding course. Where today it trickles, like a 
rivulet over sand-banks, so shallow that the 
shoals are visible, tomorrow it will flow rich 
and full. 

Suddenly Natalya came to the decision to go 
to Aksinya at Yagodnoye, and to ask, to be- 
seech her to return Grigory to her. For some 
reason it seemed to Natalya that everything 
depended on Aksinya, that she had only to ask 
her and Grigory would return, and with him, her 
own former happiness. She did not stop to con- 
sider whether this was possible, or how Aksi- 
nya would receive her strange request. Driven 
on by subconscious motives, she sought to act 
upon her decision as quickly as possible. 

At the end of the month a letter arrived from 
Grigory. After messages to his father and moth- 
er he sent his greeting and regards to Natalya. 
Whatever the reason inciting him to this, it was 
the stimulus Natalya required, and she made 
ready to go to Yagodnoye the very next Sun- 

"Where are you off to, Natalya?" Dunya 


asked, watching her as she attentively studied 
her features in the scrap of looking-glass. 

"I'm going to visit my people," Natalya lied, 
and blushed as she realized for the first time 
that she was risking great humiliation, a ter- 
rible moral test. 

"You might have an evening out with me 
just for once," Darya suggested. "Come this 
evening, won't you?" 

"I don't know, but I don't think so." 

"You little nun! Our turn only comes when 
our husbands are away," Darya said with a wink 
and stooped to examine the embroidered hem 
of her new pale-blue skirt. Darya had altered 
considerably since Pyotr's departure. Unrest 
showed in her eyes, her movements and car- 
riage. She arrayed herself more diligently on 
Sundays, and came back late in the evening 
sombre-eyed and out of temper, to complain 
to Natalya: 

"It's terrible, really it is! They've taken away 
all the decent Cossacks, and left only boys and 
old men in the village!" 

"Well, what difference does that make to 

"Why, there's nobody to lark about with of 
an evening. If only I could go off alone to the 
mill one day. There's no fun to be had here 
with our father-in-law." And with cynical frank- 


ness she asked Natalya: "How can you bear 
it, dear; so long without a Cossack?" 

"Shame on you! Haven't you any con- 
science?" Natalya blushed. 

"Don't you feel any desire?" 

"It's clear you do." 

"Of course I do!" Darya flushed and 
laughed and the arches of her brows quivered. 
"Why should I hide it? I'd make even an old 
man hot and bothered this very minute! Just 
think, it's two months since Pyotr left." 

"You're laying up sorrow for yourself, Da- 

"Shut up, you respectable old woman! We 
know you quiet ones! You would never admit 

"I've nothing to admit." 

Darya gave her an amused sidelong glance, 
and bit her lips with her small snappish teeth. 

"The other day Timofei Manitsev, the ata- 
man's son, sat down beside me. I could see he 
was afraid to begin. Then he quietly slipped 
his hand under my arm, and his hand was 
trembling. I just waited and said nothing, but 
I was getting angry. If he had been a lad now 
-but he's only a little snot. Sixteen years old, 
not a day more. I sat without speaking, and he 
pawed and pawed, and whispered: 'Come along 
to our shed.' Then I gave him something!" 


She laughed merrily; her brows quivered and 
laughter spurted from her half-closed eyes. 

"What a ticking off I gave him! I jumped up. 
'Oh, you this and that! You yellow -necked 
whelp! Do you think you can wheedle me like 
that? When did you wet the bed last?' I gave 
him a fine talking to." 

Darya's attitude to Natalya had changed of 
late, and their relations had grown simple and 
friendly. The dislike which she had felt for 
the younger woman was gone, and the two, 
different in every respect, lived together ami- 

Natalya finished dressing and went out. Da- 
rya overtook her in the porch. 

"You'll open the door for me tonight?" she 

"I expect I shall stop the night with my peo- 

Darya thoughtfully scratched her nose with 
her comb and shook her head: 

"Oh, all right. I didn't want to ask Dunya, 
but I see I shall have to." 

Natalya told Ilyinichna she was going to vis- 
it her people, and went into the street. The 
wagons were rattling away from the market in 
the square, and the villagers were coming from 
church. She turned up a side lane and hurried- 
ly climbed the hill. At the top she turned and 


looked back. The village lay flooded in sun- 
light, the little limewashed houses looked daz- 
zlingly white, and the sun glittered on the steep 
roof of the mill, making the sheet-iron glit- 
ter like molten ore. 


Yagodnoye also had been plucked of its 
menfolk by the war. Venyamin and Tikhon had 
gone, and the place was even sleepier, drearier 
and more isolated than before. Aksinya wait- 
ed on the general in Venyamin's place, while 
fat-bottomed Lukerya took over all the cook- 
ing and fed the fowls. Old Sashka tended the 
horses and looked after the orchard. There was 
only one new face, an old Cossack named Niki- 
tich who had been taken on as coachman. 

This year old Listnitsky sowed less, and sup- 
plied some twenty horses for army remounts, 
leaving only three or four for the needs of the 
estate. He passed his time shooting bustards 
and hunting with the borzois. 

Aksinya received only brief, infrequent let- 
ters from Grigory, informing her that so far he 
was well and going through the grind. He had 
grown stronger, or else he did not want to tell 
her of his weakness, for he never let slip any 
complaint that he found active service difficult 


and dreary. There was a cold note in his let 
ters, as though he had written them because he 
felt he had to, and only in one did he write: 
"All the time at the front, and I'm fed up with 
fighting and carrying death on my back." In 
every letter he asked after his daughter, telling 
Aksinya to write about her. 

Aksinya seemed to bear the separation brave- 
ly. All her love for Grigory was poured out 
on her child, especially after she became con- 
vinced that it was really his. Life gave irrefu- 
table proofs of that: the girl's chestnut hair 
was replaced by a black, curly growth; her 
eyes changed to a dark tint, and grew elongated 
in their slits. With every day she became more 
and more like her father; even her smile was 
Grigory's. Now Aksinya could see him beyond 
all doubt in the child, and her feeling for it 
deepened. No longer did she start back from the 
cradle, as she sometimes had before, thinking 
she discerned in the child's sleeping face some 
likeness to the hated features of Stepan. 

But the days crawled on, and at the end of 
each a caustic bitterness settled in Aksinya's 
breast. Anxiety for the life of her beloved 
pierced her mind like a sharp needle; it left her 
neither day nor night. Restrained during the 
hours of labour, it burst all dams at night, and 
she tossed and turned, weeping soundlessly 


and biting her hand to avoid awakening the 
child with her sobs; she tried to kill her mental 
anguish with a physical pain. She wept the 
rest of her tears into the baby's napkins, 
ing in her childish naivete: "It's Grisha's child, 
he must feel in his heart how I yearn for him." 

After nights such as this she arose in the 
morning as though she had been beaten unmerci- 
fully. All her body ached, little silver hammers 
knocked incessantly in her veins, and sorrow 
lurked in the corners of her lips. The nights of 
yearning aged Aksinya. 

One Sunday she had given her master his 
breakfast, and was standing on the steps when 
she saw a woman approaching the gate. The 
eyes under the white kerchief seemed strange- 
ly familiar. The v/oman opened the gate and 
entered the yard. Aksinya turned pale as she 
recognized Natalya. She slowly went to meet 
her. A heavy layer of dust had settled on Na- 
talya's shoes. She halted, her big, toil-rough- 
ened hands hanging lifelessly at her sides, and 
breathed heavily, trying to straighten her 
scarred neck and failing, so that it seemed she 
looked sideways. "I've come to see you, Aksi- 
nya," she said, running her dry tongue over 
her lips. 

Aksinya gave a swift glance at the windows 
of the house and silently led Natalya into her 


room. Natalya followed her. To her straining 
ears the rustle of Aksinya's skirt seemed unna- 
turally loud. "There's something wrong with 
my ears, it must be the heat," the confused 
thought scratched at her brain with a host of 

Aksinya closed the door, and standing in the 
middle of the room with her hands under her 
apron, took charge of the situation. 

"What have you come for?" she asked 
stealthily, almost in a whisper, 

"I'd like a drink," Natalya replied, staring 
heavily about the room, 

Aksinya waited. Natalya began to speak, 
with difficulty raising her voice: 

"You've taken my husband from me. . . . Give 
me my Grigory back. You've broken m.y life. 
You see how. . . ." 

"You want your husband?" Aksinya clenched 
her teeth, and the words fell steadily like slow 
raindrops on stone. "You want your husband? 
Who are you asking? Why did you come? 
You've thought of it too late. Too late!" 

Laughing caustically, her whole body sway- 
ing, Aksinya went close up to Natalya. She 
sneered as she stared in the face of her enemy. 
There she stood, the lawful but abandoned 
wife, humiliated, crushed with misery. She who 
had come between Aksinya and Grigory, sep- 


arating them, causing a bloody pain in Aksi- 
nya's heart. And while she had been wearing 
herself out with mortal longing, this other one, 
this Natalya, had been caressing Grigory and 
no doubt laughing at her, the unsuccessful, 
forsaken mistress. 

"And you've come to ask me to give him 
up?" Aksinya panted. "You creeping snake! 
You took Grisha away from me first! You knew 
he was living with me. Why did you marry 
him? I only took back my own. He's mine. I 
have a child by him, but you. . . ." 

With stormy hatred she stared into Natalya's 
eyes, and, waving her arms wildly, poured out 
a boiling torrent of words. 

"Grisha's mine, and I'll give him up to no 
one! He's mine, mine! D'you hear...? Mine! 
Clear out, you shameless bitch, you're not his 
wife. You want to rob a child of its father? 
And why didn't you come before? Well, why 
didn't you come before?" 

Natalya went sideways to the bench and sat 
down, dropping her head and covering her face 
with her hands. 

"You left your husband. Don't shout like 

"I have no husband but Grisha. No one, no- 
where in the whole world." Feeling an anger 
that could not find vent raging within her, Ak- 


sinya gazed at the strand of black hair that had 
slipped from under Natalya's kerchief. 

"Does he need you?" she demanded, "Look 
at your twisted neck! And do you think he 
longs for you? He left you when you were well, 
and is he likely to look at a cripple? I won't 
give Grisha up! That's all I have to say. Clear 

Aksinya grew ferocious in defence of her 
nest, in revenge for all the suffering of the past. 
She could see that, despite the slightly crooked 
neck, Natalya was as good-looking as before. 
Natalya's cheeks and lips were fresh, untouched 
by time, while her own eyes were webbed 
with wrinkles, and all because of Natalya. 

"Do you think I had any hope of getting 
him back by asking?" Natalya raised her eyes, 
drunk with suffering, 

"Then why did you come?" Aksinya panted. 

"My yearning drove me on," 

Awakened by the voices, Aksinya's daugh- 
ter stirred in the bed and broke into a cry. 
The mother took up the child, and sat down 
with her face to the window. Trembling in ev- 
ery limb, Natalya gazed at the infant. A dry 
spasm clutched her throat. Grigory's eyes stared 
at her inquisitively from the baby's face. 

Weeping and swaying, she walked out 
into the porch. Aksinya did not see her off. 


A minute or two later Sashka came into the 

"Who was that woman?" he asked, evidently 

"Someone from our village." 

Natalya walked back about three versts, and 
then lay down under a wild thorn. Crushed by 
her yearning, she lay thinking of nothing. 
Grigory's gloomy black eyes staring cut of a 
child's face were continually before her. 


So vivid that it was almost a blinding pain, 
the night after the battle remained for ever im- 
printed in Grigory's memory. He returned to 
consciousness some time before dawn; his 
hands stirred among the prickly stubble, and 
he groaned with the pain that filled his head. 
With an effort he raised his hand, drew it up 
to his brow, and felt his blood-clotted hair. 
When his finger touched the wound it was as 
if a red-hot ember had been placed there. Then, 
grinding his teeth, he rolled over. Above him 
the frost-nipped leaves of a tree rustled mourn- 
fully with a glassy tinkle. The black branches 
were clearly outlined against the deep blue 
background of the sky, and stars glittered 


among them. Grigory gazed unwinkingly, and 
the stars seemed to him like strange, bluish- 
yellow fruits hanging from the twigs. 

Realizing what had happened to him, and 
conscious of an inescapable horror, he crawled 
away on all fours, grinding his teeth. The 
pain played with him, threw him down head- 
long. He seemed to be crawling for an eterni- 
ty. He forced himself to look back; the tree 
stood out blackly some fifty paces away. Once 
he crawled across a corpse, resting his el- 
bows on the dead man's hard, sunken belly. 
He was sick with loss of blood, and he wept 
like a babe, and chewed the dewy grass to 
avoid losing consciousness. By an overturned 
case of shells he managed to get on to his feet, 
and stood a long time swaying, then started 
to walk. His strength began to return; he 
stepped out more firmly, and was even able to 
take his bearings by the Great Bear, moving 
in an easterly direction. 

At the edge of the forest he was halted by 
a sudden warning shout: 

"Stop, or I'll fire!" 

He heard the click of a revolver, and looked 
in the direction of the sound. A man was lean- 
ing against a pine-tree, 

"Who are you?" he asked, listening to the 
sound of his voice as though it were another's. 

38—1933 593 

"A Russian? My God! Come here!" the man 
by the pine slipped to the ground. Grigory 
went to him. 

"Bend down!" 

"I can't." I 

"Why not?" 

"I shall fall and not be able to get up again. 
I'm wounded in the head." 

"What regiment are you from?" 

"The Twelfth Don Cossack." 

"Help me, Cossack!" 

"I shall fall. Your Honour," Grigory re- 
plied, recognizing the man as an officer by his 

"Give me your hand at least," 

Grigory helped the officer to rise, and they 
went off together. But with every step the of- 
ficer himg more heavily on his arm. As they 
rose out of a dell he seized Grigory by the 
sleeve and said: 

"Leave me, Cossack. I've got a woimd . , . 
right through the stomach." 

His eyes were dull behind his pince-nez and 
the breath came from his open bearded mouth 
in hoarse gasps. He fainted, but Grigory dragged 
him along, falling and rising again and 
again. Twice he dropped his burden and left 
it; but each time he returned, lifted it, and 
stumbled on as if walking in his sleep. 


At eleven o'clock they were picked up by a 
patrol and taken to a dressing station. 

Grigory slipped away from the station the 
very next day. Once on the road he tore the 
bandage from his head, and walked along wav- 
ing the blood-soaked bandage in his relief. 

"Where have you come from?" his squadron 
commander asked him in amazement, when he 
turned up at regimental headquarters. 

"I've returned to duty. Your Honour." 

When he left the squadron commander, Gri- 
gory saw his troop sergeant. 

"My horse . . . the bay, where is it?" 

"He's all right, lad. We caught him as soon 
as we had finished with the Austrians. But 
what about you? We were praying for you to 
go to heaven." 

"You were in a hurry," Grigory said with 
a grim smile. 

An extract from regimental orders read as 

follows : ) 1 

"For saving the life of the commander of 
the 9th regiment of dragoons Lieutenant-Colo- 
nel Gustav Grozberg, Cossack of the 12th Don 
Cossack Regiment Melekhov Grigory is pro- 
moted to the rank of corporal and recommend- 
ed for the St. George Cross, 4th class." 

Grigory 's squadron had halted in Kamenka- 
Strumilovo for two days, and were now pre- 

38* 595 

paring to advance again. Grigory found the 
house in which the Cossacks of his troop were 
quartered, and went to see to his horse. His 
towels and some underlinen were missing from 
his saddle-bags. 

"Stolen before my very eyes, Grigory," 
Misha Koshevoi admitted guiltily. "There was 
a swarm of infantry quartered here, and they 
stole them." 

"Well, they can keep them, damn them! Only 
I want to bandage my head." 

"You can take my towel." 

Uryupin came into the shed where they were 
standing. He held out his hand as though the 
quarrel between him and Grigory had never 

"Hullo, Melekhov! So you're still alive!" 

"More or less." 

"Your head's all bleeding. Wipe yourself." 

"I will in my own time." 

"Let's have a look at what they've done to 
you." • 

He forced back Grigory's head, and snorted: 

"Why did you let them cut your hair off? 
What a sight you are! The doctors won't help 
you any. Let me heal you." 

Without waiting for Grigory's consent he 
drew a cartridge out of his cartridge-case, broke 


the bullet open and poured the black pow- 
der into his hand. 

"Misha, find me a spider's web." 

With the point of his sabre Koshevoi scraped 
a web from a beam and handed it to Uryupin. 
With the same sabre Uryupin dug up some 
earth and, mixing it with the web and the 
powder, chewed it between his teeth. Then he 
plastered the sticky mess over the bleeding 
wound and smiled: 

"It'll be all right again in three days," he de- 
clared. "But here I am looking after you, and 
yet you would have killed me." 

"Thanks for looking after me, but if I'd killed 
you I'd have had one sin the less on my 

"What a simpleton you are, lad." 

"Maybe. What's my head look like?" 

"There's a cut half an inch deep. Something to 
remember them by." 

"I shan't forget them." 

"You couldn't if you wanted to; the Austrians 
don't sharpen their swords properly so you'll 
have a scar for the rest of your life." 

"Lucky for you, Grigory, that he got you on 
the slant, or you'd have been buried on foreign 
soil," said Koshevoi with a smile. 

"What shall I do with my cap?" 


Grigory twisted his hacked and blood-stained 
cap confusedly in his hands. 

"Throw it away, the dogs will eat it." 

"The grub's arrived, lads. Come and get it!" 
came a shout from the door of the house. 

The Cossacks left the shed. Grigory's bay 
horse whinnied after him, turning up the whites 
of his eyes. 

"He pined after you, Grigory," Koshevoi 
nodded to the horse. "I was surprised, he 
wouldn't eat, and whinnied all the time." 

"When I crawled away I kept calling him," 
Grigory said in a thick voice. "I was sure he 
wouldn't leave me, and I knew it wouldn't be 
easy for a stranger to catch him." 

"That's true. We only just managed to get 
him with a lasso." 

"He's a good horse. He's my brother Pyotr's." 
Grigory turned his back to hide his wet eyes. 

They went into the house. Yegor Zharkov 
was lying asleep on a spring mattress in the 
front-room. An indescribable disorder silently 
bore witness to the haste with which the owners 
had left the place. Fragments of broken uten- 
sils, torn paper, books, scraps of material, chil- 
dren's toys, old boots, scattered flour were all 
tumbled in confusion about the floor. 

Yemelyan Groshev and Prokhor Zykov had 
cleared a space in the middle of the room, and 


were eating their dinner. At the sight of Gri- 
gory, Prokhor's calf eyes nearly dropped out 
of his head. 

"Grisha! Where did you spring from?" 

"From the other world!" 

"Run and get him some grub. Don't stare like 
that!" Uryupin shouted, 

"Won't be a minute. The kitchen's just round 
the comer." 

Prokhor ran to the door, chewing as he went. 
Grigory sat down wearily in his place. "I don't 
remember when I ate last," he smiled guiltily. 

Units of the Third Corps were moving through 
the town. The narrow streets were choked with 
infantry, baggage trains and cavalry, the cross- 
roads were jammed and the noise of the traffic 
penetrated even through the closed doors of 
the houses. Prokhor quickly returned with a 
pot of soup and a pan of buckwheat. 

"What shall I pour the grub into?" 

Not knowing its purpose, Groshev picked up 
a chamber-pot, remarking: "Here's a pot with 
a handle." 

"Your pot stinks," Prokhor said with a frown. 

"Never mind. Pour it out and we'll share it 

Zykov turned the basket upside down over 
the vessel, and the rich, thick gruel fell out in 


a mass, with an amber edge of fat round it. 
They ate and talked. 

"There's a battery of a highland mounted 
artillery battalion next door," Prokhor related, 
dabbing spittle over a grease spot on the stripe 
of his trousers. "They're feeding up their 
horses. Their warrant officer read in the paper 
that the Germans' allies were doing a bunk." 

"You should've been here this morning, Me- 
lekhov," Uryupin muttered through a mouth- 
ful of gruel: "We were thanked by the division 
commander himself. He reviewed us and thanked 
us for smashing the Hungarian hussars and 
saving the battery. 'Cossacks,' he said, 'the tsar 
and the fatherland will not forget you.' " 

As he spoke there was the sound of a shot 
outside, and a machine-gun began to stutter. 
Dropping their spoons, the Cossacks ran out. 
Overhead an aeroplane was circling low with 
a menacing roar. 

"Lie down under the fence. They'll be drop- 
ping a bomb in a minute. There's a battery billet- 
ed next door to us," Uryupin shouted. "Some- 
one go and wake Yegor up. He'll get killed on 
his soft mattress!" 

"Bring out the rifles." 

Aiming carefully, Uryupin fired from the 

Soldiers ran along the street, for some rea- 


son ducking their heads. From the next yard 
came the neighing of horses and a curt order. 
Grigory glanced over the fence; the gunners 
were hurriedly wheeling a gun into a shed. 
Screwing up his eyes at the prickly blue of the 
sky, he stared at the roaring, swooping bird. 
At that moment something fell away from it 
and glittered sharply in the sunlight. 

A shattering roar shook the house and the 
Cossacks crouching round the steps; in the next 
yard a horse neighed in mortal agony. A pungent 
wave of powder smoke drifted over the fence. 

"Lie flat," Uryupin shouted rushing down 
the steps. Grigory sprang after him, and they 
threw themselves down by the palings. One 
wing of the aeroplane glittered as it turned. 
From the street came irregular shots. Grigory 
had just thrust a fresh clip of cartridges into 
the magazine of his rifle when a shattering ex- 
plosion threw him six feet away from the fence. 
A lump of earth struck him heavily on the 
head, filling his eyes with dust. 

Uryupin lifted him to his feet. A sharp pain 
in the left eye prevented Grigory from seeing. 
With difficulty opening the right eyelid, he saw 
that half the house was demolished; the bricks 
lay in a misshapen heap, a pink cloud of dust 
hovering over them. 

As he stood staring, Yegor Zharkov crawled 


from under the steps. His entire face was a cry; 
bloody tears were raining from his eyes that 
had been forced out of their sockets. With his 
head buried in his shoulders he crawled along, 
screaming without opening his blackening lips. 

Behind him one leg, torn away at the thigh, 
was dragged along by a shred of skin and a 
strip of scorched trouser; the other leg was 
gone completely. He crawled slowly along on 
his hands, a thin, almost childish scream com- 
ing from his lips. Then the scream stopped and 
he fell over on his side, pressing his face to 
the harsh, unkind, brick- and dung-littered 
earth. No one attempted to go to him. 

"Pick him up!" Grigory shouted, still press- 
ing his hand to his left eye. 

Infantrymen ran into the yard; a two- 
wheeled cart with telephone operators stopped 
at the gate. 

"Keep moving!" an officer shouted at them 
as he galloped past. "Don't stand there 
gaping!" Two women, and an old man in a 
long black coat came up. Zharkov was quickly 
surrounded by a little crowd. Pressing through 
them, Grigory saw that he was still breathing, 
whimpering and violently trembling. Great 
beads of sweat stood out on his deathly yellow 

"Pick him up! What are you, men or devils?" 


"What are you howling about?" a tall in- 
fantryman snapped. "Pick him up, pick him 
up! But where are we to take him to? Can't you 
see he's dying?" 

"Both legs gone!" 

"Look at the blood!" 

"Where are the stretcher-bearers?" 

"What good could they do!" 

"And he's still conscious." 

Uryupin touched Grigory on the shoulder 
from behind. "Don't move him," he whispered. 
"Come round the other side and look." 

He drew Grigory along by the sleeve, and 
pushed the crowd aside. Grigory took one 
glance, then hunched his shoulders and turned 
away to the gate. Under Zharkov's belly the pink 
and blue intestines were steaming. The tangled 
mass lay on the sand, stirring and swelling. Be- 
side it the dying man's hand scrabbled at the 

"Cover his face," someone proposed. 

Zharkov suddenly raised himself on his 
hands and, throwing his head back until it 
hung between his shoulder-blades, shouted in 
a hoarse, inhuman voice: 

"Brothers, kill me. . , . Brothers . . . ! What are 
you standing looking for . . ,? Oh. . . . Oh .... 
Brothers, kill me!" 


XXI : 

The railway carriage rocked gently and the 
knock of its wheels was lullingly drowsy. A 
yellow band of light streamed from the lan- 
tern. It was good to be stretched out at full 
length, with boots off, giving the feet their 
freedom, to feel no responsibility for oneself, 
to know that no danger threatened one's life, 
and that death was so far away. It was espe- 
cially pleasant to listen to the varying chatter 
of the wheels, for with their every turn, with 
every tug of the engine, the front was farther 
and farther off. And Grigory lay listening, 
wriggling the toes of his bare feet, all his body 
rejoicing in the fresh, clean linen. He felt as 
though he had thrown off a dirty skin, and, 
spotlessly clean, was entering a new life. 

His quiet, tranquil jojy was disturbed only 
by the pain in his left eye. It died away occa- 
sionally, then would suddenly return, burning 
the eye and forcing involuntary tears under the 
bandage. In the field hospital a young Jewish 
doctor had examined his eye and had told him: 
"You'll have to go back. Your eye is in a very 
unsatisfactory state." 

"Shall I lose it, doctor?" 

"Why should you think that?" the doctor 
smiled, catching the unconcealed alarm in Gri- 


gory's voice. "But you must have it attended 
to, and an operation may be necessary. We 
shall send you to Petrograd or Moscow. Don't 
be afraid, your eye will be all right." He 
clapped Grigory on the shoulder and gently 
drew him outside into the corridor. As he 
turned back he rolled up his sleeves in readi- 
ness for an operation. 

After much hanging about Grigory found 
himself in a hospital train. He lay for days on 
end, enjoying the blessed peace. The ancient 
engine exerted all its strength to haul the long 
line of carriages. They drew near to Moscow, 
and arrived at night. The serious cases were 
carried out on stretchers; those who could walk 
were assembled on the platform. The doctor 
accompanying the train called out Grigory's 
name and handed him over to a nurse, instruct- 
ing her as to his destination. 

"Have you got your luggage with you?" 
- "What luggage do you expect a Cossack to 
have? A greatcoat and a field-bag, that's all." 

"Follow me." 

The nurse led the way out of the station, her 
dress rustling. Grigory walked uncertainly be- 
hind her. They took a cab. The roar of the 
great city, the jangle of tram-bells, the bluish 
gleam of electric lights had a crushing effect 
upon him. He leaned against the back of the 


cab, staring inquisitively at the crowded streets, 
and it was strange for him to feel the agitating 
warmth of a woman's body at his side. Autumn 
had arrived in Moscow. Along the boulevards 
the leaves of the trees gleamed yellow in the 
lamplight, the night breathed a wintry chill, 
the pavements were shining, and above him 
the stars were autumnally clear and cold. From 
the centre of the town they turned into a desert- 
ed side-street. The horse's hoofs clattered over 
the cobbles; the driver in his long blue coat 
swayed on his high seat and waved the ends 
of the reins at his mare. Railway engines whis- 
tled in the distance. "Perhaps a train just off to 
the Don," Grigory thought, pricked with yearn- 

"Feeling sleepy?" the nurse asked. 


"We shall soon be there." 

The waters of a pond gleamed oilily behind 
an iron railing, Grigory caught a glimpse of a 
railed-off landing stage with a boat tied to it. 
There was a smell of dampness in the air. 

"They even keep water behind iron bars 
here, not like our Don . . ." Grigory thought 
vaguely. Leaves rustled under the rubber tyres 
of the cab. 

They stopped outside a three-storied house. 
Grigory jumped out. 


"Give me your hand," the nurse said, bend- 
ing towards him. He took her small, soft hand 
in his and helped her to alight. 

"You smell of soldiers' sweat," she laughed 
quietly, ringing the bell. 

"You ought to spend some time out there, 
nurse, then you might stink of something else," 
Grigory replied with suppressed anger. 

The door was opened by a porter. They went 
up a gilt balustraded staircase to the first floor. 
Passing into an ante-room, Grigory sat down 
at a round table while the nurse whispered 
something to a woman in a white smock. 

Faces wearing spectacles of various colours 
appeared round the doors that lined both sides 
of the long narrow corridor. 

After a few minutes an orderly, also dressed 
in white, led him to a bathroom. 


"What for?" 

"You've got to have a bath." 

While Grigory was undressing and looking 
round in astonishment at the bathroom with 
its frosted-glass windows the orderly filled the 
bath with water, measured the temperature, 
and told him to get in, 

"This tub won't do for me," Grigory mut- 
tered, lifting a swarthy leg into the bath. 

The orderly assisted him to wash himself 


thoroughly, then gave him a towel, linen, house- 
shoes, and a grey, belted dressing-gown. 

"What about my clothes?" Grigory asked in 

"You'll wear these while you're here. Your 
clothes will be returned to you when you're 
discharged from the hospital." 

As Grigory passed a wall mirror he did not 
recognize himself. Tall, dark of face, with 
patches of crimson on his cheeks and a growth 
of moustache and beard, in a dressing-gown, 
his black hair pressed down under a bandage, 
he bore only a distant resemblance to the for- 
mer Grigory Melekhov. "I've grown young- 
er," he thought, smiling wanly to himself. 

"Ward six, third door on the right," the 
attendant told him. 

As Grigory entered the large white room a 
priest in a hospital gown and dark glasses half 

"Ah, a neighbour? Glad to meet you, we 
shall keep each other company. I am from 
Zaraisk," he announced sociably, offering Gri- 
gory a chair. 

A few minutes later a corpulent nurse with a 
large, plain face opened the door. 

"Melekhov, we want to have a look at your 
eye," she said in a low, chesty voice, and stood 
aside to let him pass. 



The army command decided on a big cav- 
alry attack on the south-west front with a 
view to breaking through the enemy lines, des- 
troying their communications and disorganiz- 
ing their forces with sudden assaults from the 
rear. The command set great store by the plan, 
and large forces of cavalry were concentrated 
in the area, Yevgeny Listnitsky's regiment 
among them. The attack was to have begun on 
August 28th, but a rain storm caused it to be 
postponed until the following day. 

Early in the morning the division was de- 
ployed over a huge area in preparation for the 

About eight versts away the infantry on the 
right flank made a demonstrative attack to 
draw the fire of the enemy. Also sections of 
one cavalry division were dispatched in a 
misleading direction. 

In front of Listnitsky's regiment there was 
no sign whatever of the enemy. About a verst 
away Yevgeny could see deserted lines of 
trenches, and behind them rye fields billowing 
in a wind-driven, bluish early morning mist. The 
enemy must have learned of the attack in prep- 
aration, for during the night they had retired 

39—1933 609 

some six versts, leaving only machine-gun 
nests to harass the attackers. 

Behind heavy rainclouds the sun was rising. 
The entire valley was flooded with a creamy 
yellow mist. The order came for the offensive 
to begin, and the regiments advanced. Thou- 
sands of horses' hoofs set up a rumbling roar 
that sounded as though it came from under the 
ground. Listnitsky reined in his horse to pre- 
vent it from breaking into a gallop. A verst was 
covered, and the level lines of attacking forces 
drew near to the fields of grain. The rye, higher 
than a man's waist and entangled with twining 
plants and grasses, rendered the cavalry's prog- 
ress extremely difficult. Before them still waved 
the ruddy heads of rye, behind them it lay 
crushed and trampled down by hoofs. After 
four versts of such riding the horses began to 
stumble and sweat, but still there was no sign 
of the enemy. Listnitsky glanced at his squad- 
ron commander; the captain's face wore an 
expression of utter despair. 

Six versts of terribly heavy going took all 
the strength out of the horses; some of them 
dropped under their riders, even the strongest 
stumbled, exerting all their strength to keep 
moving. Now the Austrian machine-guns be- 
gan to work, spraying a hail of bullets. The 
rifle fire came in volleys. The murderous fire 


mowed down the leading ranks. A regiment of 
lancers was the first to falter and turn; a Cos- 
sack regiment broke. A rain of machine-gun 
bullets lashed them into panic-stricken flight. 
Owing to the criminal negligence of the High 
Command, this extraordinarily extensive attack 
was overwhelmed with complete defeat. Some 
of the regiments lost half their complement of 
men and horses. Four hundred Cossacks and 
sixteen officers were killed and wounded in 
Listnitsky's regiment alone. 

Listnitsky's own horse was killed under him, 
and he himself was wounded in the head and 
the leg. A sergeant-major leaped from his horse 
and picked him up, flung him over his sad- 
dle-bow and galloped back with him. 

The chief of staff of the division. Staff Colonel 
Golovachev, took several snap-shots of the 
attack, and afterwards showed them to some 
officers. A wounded lieutenant struck him in 
the face with his fist and burst into tears. Then 
Cossacks ran up and tore Golovachev to pieces, 
made game of his corpse, and finally threw it 
into the mud of a roadside ditch. So ended this 
brilliantly inglorious offensive. 

From a hospital in Warsaw Yevgeny informed 
his father that he had been given leave 
and was coming down to Yagodnoye. The old 
man shut himself up in his room, and came out 

39* 611 ' 

again only the next day. He ordered Nikitich, 
the coachman, to harness the trotting horse to 
the drozhki, had breakfast, and drove to 
Vyeshenskaya. There he telegraphed four 
hundred rubles to his son and sent him a short 

I am very glad, my dear boy, that you have 
received your baptism of Bre. The nobleman's 
place is out there, not in the palace. You are 
much too honest and clever to be able to cringe 
with a peaceful conscience. Nobody in our 
family has ever done that. For that reason, your 
grandfather lost favour and died in Yagodnoye, 
neither hoping for nor awaiting grace from the 
Emperor. Take care of yourself, Yevgeny, and 
get well. Remember, you are all I have in the 
world. Your aunt sends her love. She is well. 
As for myself, I have nothing to write. You 
know how I live. How can things at the front 
be as they are? Is it possible that we have no 
people with common sense"? I don't believe the 
newspaper reports. They are all lies, as I know 
from past years. Is it possible, Yevgeny, that 
we shall lose the campaign? I am impatiently 
awaiting you at home. 

True, there was nothing in old Listnitsky's 
life to write about. It dragged on as before, 


without variation; only the cost of labour rose, 
and there was a shortage of liquor. The master 
drank more frequently, and grew more irritable 
and fault-finding. One day he summoned 
Aksinya to him and complained: 

"You're not attending to your duties. Why 
was the breakfast cold yesterday? Why wasn't 
the glass properly cleaned? If it happens again 
I shall discharge you. I can't stand slovenliness. 
D'you hear?" 

Aksinya pressed her lips together and burst 
into tears. 

"Nikolai Alexeyevich! My daughter is ill. Let 
me have time to attend to her. I can't leave 

"What's the matter with the child?" 

"She seems to be choking." 

"What? Scarlet fever? Why didn't you speak 
before, you fool? Run and tell Nikitich to drive 
to Vyeshenskaya for the doctor. Hurry!" 

Aksinya ran out, the old man bombarding 
her the while, with his deep bass voice: 

"You fool of a woman, fool!" 

Nikitich brought the doctor back the next 
morning. He examined the unconscious, feverish 
child, and without replying to Aksinya's en- 
treaties went straight to the master. The old 
man received him in the ante-room. 


"Well, what's wrong with the child?" he 
asked, acknowledging the doctor's greeting 
with a careless nod. 

"Scarlet fever. Your Excellency!" 

"Will it get better? Any hope?" 

"Very little. It's dying. Think of its age." 

"You fool!" The old man turned livid. "What 
did you study medicine for? Cure her!" He 
slammed the door in the doctor's face and paced 
up and down the hall. 

Aksinya knocked and entered. "The doctor 
wants horses to take him to Vyeshenskaya." 

The old man turned on his heel. "Tell him 
he's a blockhead! Tell him he doesn't leave this 
place until the child is well. Give him a room 
and feed him to his heart's content. But he 
won't go away," he shouted, shaking his bony 
fist. He strode over to the window, drummed 
with his fingers for a minute, and then, turning 
to a photograph of his son as a baby in his 
nurse's arms, stepped back two paces and 
stared hard at it, as though unable to recognize 
the child. 

As soon as her child had fallen ill Aksinya 
had decided that God was punishing her for 
taunting Natalya. Crushed with fear for the 
child's life, she lost control of herself, wandered 
aimlessly about, and could not work. "Surely 
Cod won't take her!" the feverish thought beat 


incessantly in her brain, and not believing, 
with all her might trying not to believe, that 
the child would die, she prayed frantically to 
God for his last mercy, that its life might be 

But the fever was choking the little life. The 
girl lay flat on her back, the breath coming in 
little hoarse gasps from her swollen throat. The 
doctor attended her four times a day, and 
stood of an evening smoking on the steps of the 
servants' quarters, gazing up at the cold sprin- 
kling of autumn stars. 

All night Aksinya remained on her knees by 
the bed. The child's gurgling rattle wrung her 

"Mama . . ." whispered the small parched 

"My little one, my little daughter," she 
groaned; "my flower, don't go away, Tanya. 
Look, my pretty one, open your little eyes, 
come back. My dark-eyed darling! Why, oh 
Lord . . .?" 

Occasionally the child opened its inflamed 
lids, and the bloodshot eyes gave her a waver- 
ing glance. The mother caught at the glance 
greedily. It seemed to be withdrawn into itself, 
yearning, resigned. 

She died in her mother's arms. For the last 
time the little mouth gaped, and the body was 


racked with a convulsion. The tiny head fell 
back on its mother's arm, and the little Mele- 
khov eyes gazed with an astonished, sombre 

Old Sashka dug a small grave under an old 
poplar by the lake, carried the coffin to the 
grave and with unwonted haste covered it with 
earth, then waited long and patiently for 
Aksinya to rise from the clayey mound. When 
he could wait no longer, he blew his nose vio- 
lently and went off to the stables. He drew a 
bottle of eau-de-Cologne and a little flagon of 
denatured alcohol out of a manger, mixed the 
spirits in a bottle, and muttered as he held the 
concoction up to the light: 

"In memory! May the heavenly kingdom 
open its gates to the little one! The angel is 
dead." He drank and shook his head wildly as 
he bit into a soft pickled tomato; then staring 
tenderly at the bottle, he said: 

"Don't forget me, dear, and I'll never forget 
you!" and burst into tears. 

Three weeks later Yevgeny Listnitsky sent a 
telegram saying he was on his way home. A 
troika of horses was sent to meet him at the 
station, and everybody on the estate was on 
tiptoe with expectation. Turkeys and geese were 
killed, and old Sashka flayed a sheep. The prep- 
arations were elaborate enough for a grand 


ball. The young master arrived at night. A 
freezing rain was falling, and the lamps flung 
little fugitive beams of light into the puddles. 
The horses drew up at the steps, their bells jan- 
gling. Throwing his warm cloak to Sashka, 
Yevgeny, limping slightly and very agitated, 
walked up the steps. His father hastened to 
meet him, sending the chairs flying in his prog- 

Aksinya served supper in the dining-room, 
and went to summon them to table. Looking 
through the keyhole, she saw the old man em- 
bracing and kissing his son on the shoulder; 
the loose flesh of the old man's neck was quiv- 
ering. Waiting a few minutes, she looked 
again. This time Yevgeny was on his knees 
before a great map spread out on the floor. 
The old man, puffing clouds of smoke from 
his pipe, was knocking with his knuckles on 
the arm of a chair and roaring indignantly: 

"Alexeyev? It can't be! I don't believe it!" 

Yevgeny replied quietly, persuasively run- 
ning his fingers over the map. 

The old man answered in a deep steady 
voice: "In that case the commander-in-chief 
was in the wrong. Complete lack of vision. 
Look, Yevgeny, I'll give you a similar instance 
from the Russo-Japanese campaign. Let me! 
Let me!" 


Aksinya knocked. The old man came out 
animated and gay, with his eyes glittering 
youthfully. With his son he drank a bottle of 
wine of 1879 vintage. As Aksinya waited on 
them and observed their cheerful faces, she 
felt her own loneliness all the more keenly. An 
unwept yearning tortured her. After the death 
of the child she had wanted to weep, but tears 
would not come. A cry came to her throat, but 
her eyes were dry, and so the stony grief op- 
pressed her doubly. She slept a great deal, 
seeking relief in a drowsy oblivion, but the 
child's call reached her even in sleep. She 
imagined the infant was asleep at her side, and 
she turned over and groped about the bed, hear- 
ing the whispered: "Mama, mama." "My 
darling," she would answer with icy lips. Even 
in the oppressive light of day she sometimes 
imagined that the child was at her knee, and 
she caught herself reaching out her hand to 
stroke the curly head. 

The third day after his arrival Yevgeny sat 
until late in the evening with old Sashka in 
the stables, listening to his artless stories of the 
free life the Don Cossacks had led in bygone 
days. He left him at nine o'clock. A sharp wind 
was blowing through the yard; the mud 
squelched slushily underfoot. A young, yellow- 
whiskered moon pranced among the clouds. By 


its light Yevgeny looked at his watch, and 
turned towards the servants' quarters. He 
stopped by the steps to light a cigarette, stood 
thinking for a moment, then, shrugging his 
shoulders, resolutely mounted the steps. He 
cautiously lifted the latch and opened the door, 
passed through into Aksinya's room, and struck 
a match. 

"Who's there?" she asked, drawing the 
blanket around her. 

"It's only me." 

"I'll be dressed in a minute." 

"Don't trouble. I shall only stop for a moment 
or two." 

He threw off his overcoat and sat down on 
the edge of the bed. 

"So your little girl died. . . ." 

"Yes, she died . . ." Aksinya exclaimed 

"You've changed considerably. I can guess 
what the loss of the child meant to you. But I 
think you're torturing yourself uselessly; you 
can't bring her back, and you're still young 
enough to have children. Take yourself in hand 
and be reconciled to the loss. After all, you 
haven't lost everything. All your life is still 
before you." 

He pressed her hand and stroked her caress- 
ingly yet authoritatively, playing on the low 


tones of his voice. He dropped his voice to a 
whisper and, hearing Aksinya's stifled weeping, 
began to kiss her wet cheeks and eyes. 

Woman's heart is susceptible to pity and 
kindness. Burdened with her despair, not 
realizing what she was doing, Aksinya yielded 
herself to him with all her strong, long dor- 
mant passion. But as the devastating, madden- 
ing wave of delight abated she came to her 
senses and cried out sharply; losing all sense 
of reason or shame she ran out half-naked, in 
only her shift, on to the steps. Yevgeny hastily 
followed her out, leaving the door open, pull- 
ing on his overcoat as he went. As he mounted 
the steps to the terrace of the house he smiled 
joyfully and contentedly. 

Lying in his bed, rubbing his soft plump 
chest, he thought: "From the point of view of 
an honest man, what I have done is shameful, 
immoral. Grigory, ... I have robbed my neigh- 
bour; but after all, I have risked my life at 
the front. If the bullet had been a little more 
to the right it would have gone through my 
head and I should have been feeding the worms 
now. These days one has to live passionately 
for each moment as it comes. I am allowed to 
do anything." He was momentarily horrified 
by his own thoughts; but his imagination again 
conjured up the terrible moment of attack, and 


how he had raised himself from his dead horse 
only to fall again, shot down by bullets. As 
he dropped off to sleep he decided: "Time 
enough for this tom.orrow, but now to rest." 

Next morning, finding himself alone with 
Aksinya in the dining-room, he went towards 
her, a guilty smile on his face. But she pressed 
against the wall and stretched out her hands, 
scorching him with her frenzied whisper: 

"Keep away, you devil!" 

Life dictates its own unwritten laws to man. 
Within three days Yevgeny went again to 
Aksinya at night, and she did not refuse him. 


A small garden was attached to the eye 
hospital. There are many such clipped, uninvit- 
ing gardens on the outskirts of Moscow, where 
the eye finds no rest from the stony, heavy 
dreariness of the city, and as one looks at 
them the memory recalls still more sharply 
and painfully the wild freedom of the forest. 
Autumn reigned in the hospital garden. The 
paths were covered with leaves of orange and 
bronze, a morning frost crumpled the flowers 
and flooded the patches of grass with a watery 
green. On fine days the patients wandered 
along the paths, listening to the church bells 


of pious Moscow. When the weather was bad 
(and such days were frequent that year) they 
wandered from room to room or lay silently 
on their beds, boring themselves and one 

The civilian patients were in the majority in 
the hospital, and the wounded soldiers were 
accommodated in one room. There were five of 
them: Jan Vareikis, a tall, ruddy-faced, blue- 
eyed Latvian; Ivan Vrublevsky, a handsome 
young dragoon from the Vladimir Province; a 
Siberian rifleman named Kosykh; a restless 
little yellow soldier called Burdin, and Grigory. 
At the end of September another was added to 
the number. 

While they were drinking their evening tea 
they heard a long ring at the bell. Grigory 
looked out into the corridor. Three people had 
entered the hall, a nurse and a man in a long 
Caucasian coat holding a third man under the 
armpits. The man's dirty soldier's tunic with 
dark blood-stains on the chest indicated that 
he had only just arrived from the station. He 
was operated on the same evening. A few 
minutes after he had been taken into the operat- 
ing theatre, the other patients heard the muffled 
sound of singing. While he was under chloro- 
form and the surgeon was removing the re- 
mains of one eye, which had been shattered by 


a shell splinter, he sang and uttered unintel- 
ligible curses. After the operation he was 
brought into the ward. When the effects of the 
chloroform passed, he informed the others 
that he had been wounded on the German 
front, that his name was Garanzha, and that 
he was a machine-gunner, a Ukrainian from 
Chernigov Province. He made a particvilar 
friend of Grigory, whose bed was next to his, 
and after the evening inspection they would 
talk a long time in undertones. 

"Well, Cossack, how goes it?" he opened 
their first conversation. 


"Going to lose your eye?" 

"I'm having injections." 

"How many have you had?" 

"Eighteen so far." 

"Does it hurt?" 

"No, I enjoy it." 

"Ask them to cut the eye right out." 

"What for? Not everybody has to be one- 

"That's so." 

Grigory's jaundiced, venomous neighbour 
was discontented with everything. He cursed 
the government, the war, his own lot, the 
hospital food, the cook, the doctors, everything 
he could lay his tongue to. 


"What did we, you and I, go to war for, 
that's what I want to know?" 

"For the same reason everybody else did." 

"Hah! You're a fool! I've got to chew it all 
over for you! It's the bourgeoisie we're fighting 
for, don't you see? What are the bourgeoisie? 
They're birds among the fruit-trees." 

He explained the difficult words to Grigory, 
peppering his speech with invective. "Don't 
talk so fast. I can't understand your Ukrainian 
lingo. Speak slower," Grigory would interrupt 

"I'm not talking so quick as that, my boy. 
You think you're fighting for the tsar, but what 
is the tsar? The tsar's a grabber, and the 
tsaritsa's a whore, and they're both a weight 
on our backs. Don't you see? The factory-owner 
drinks vodka, while the soldier kills the lice. 
The factory-owner takes the profit, the worker 
goes bare. That's the system we've got. Serve 
on, Cossack, serve on! You'll earn another 
cross, a good one, made of oak." 

He spoke in Ukrainian, but on the rare oc- 
casions when he grew excited, he would break 
into pure Russian generously sprinkled with 

Day after day he revealed truths hitherto 
unknown to Grigory, explaining the real 
causes of war, and jesting bitterly at the auto- 


cratic government. Grigory tried to raise objec- 
tions, but Garanzha silenced him with simple, 
murderously simple questions, and he was 
forced to agree. 

Most terrible of all, Grigory began to think 
Garanzha was right, and that he was impotent 
to oppose him. He realized with horror that the 
intelligent and bitter Ukrainian was gradually 
but surely destroying all his former ideas 
about the tsar, the country, and his own 
military duty as a Cossack. Within a month of 
the Ukrainian's arrival the whole system on 
which Grigory's life had been based was a 
smoking ruin. It had already grown rotten, 
eaten up with the canker of the monstrous 
absurdity of the war, and it needed only a jolt. 
That jolt was given, and Grigory's artless 
straightforward mind awoke. He tossed about 
seeking a way out, a solution to his predica- 
ment, and gladly found it in Garanzha's 

Late one night Grigory rose from his bed 
and awoke Garanzha. He sat on the edge of the 
Ukrainian's bed. The greenish light of the 
September moon streamed through the window. 
Garanzha's cheeks were dark with furrows, 
the black sockets of his eyes gleamed humidly. 
He yawned and wrapped his legs in the 

40—1933 625 

"Why aren't you asleep?" 

"I can't sleep," Grigory replied. "Tell me 
this one thing. War is good for one and bad for 
another, isn't it?" 

"Well?" the Ukrainian yawned. 

"Wait!" Grigory whispered, blazing with 
anger. "You say we are being driven to death 
for the benefit of the rich. But what about 
the people? Don't they understand? Aren't 
there any who could tell them, who could 
go and say: 'Brothers, this is what you are 
dying for'?" 

"How could they? Tell me that! Supposing 
you did. Here we are whispering like geese in 
the reeds, but talk out loud, and they'll have a 
bullet ready for you. The people are deep in 
ignorance. The war will wake them up. After 
the thunder comes the storm." 

"But what's to be done about it? Tell me, 
you snake! You've stirred up my heart." 

"And what does your heart tell you?" 

"I can't understand what it's saying," Grigory 

"The man who tries to push me over the 
brink will get pushed over himself. We 
mustn't be afraid to turn our rifles against them. 
We must shoot the ones who're sending the 
people into hell." Garanzha rose in his bed 
and, grinding his teeth, stretched out his hand: 


"A great wave will rise and sweep them all 

"So you think everything has to be turned 
upside down?" 

"Yes! The government must be thrown aside 
like an old rag. The lords must be stripped of 
their fleece, for they've been murdering the 
people too long already." 

"And what will you do with the war when 
you've got the new government? We'll still 
go on scrapping, and if we don't, then our 
children will. How are you going to root out 
war, when men have fought for ages?" 

"It's true, war has gone on since the begin- 
ning of time, and will go on so long as we don't 
$weep away the evil government. But when 
every government is a workers' government 
they won't fight any more. That's what's got to 
be done. And it shall be done, may the devil 
bury them! It shall be. And when the Germans, 
and the French and all the others have got a 
workers' and peasants' government, what 
shall we have to fight about then? Away with 
frontiers, away with anger! One beautiful life 
all over the world. Ah. . . !" Garanzha sighed, 
and, twisting the ends of his whiskers, his one 
eye glittering, smiled dreamily. "Grisha, 
I'd pour out my blood drop by drop to live to 
see that day." 

40* 627 

They talked on until the dawn came. In the 
grey shadows Grigory fell into a troubled 

In the morning they were awakened by the 
sound of talking and a voice crying. Ivan 
Vrublevsky was lying face downwards on the 
bed sobbing, while round him stood the nurse, 
Jan Vareikis and Kosykh. 

"What's he howling for?" Burdin grunted, 
poking his head out from under the bed- 

"He's broken his eye. He was just taking 
it out of the glass and it dropped on the floor," 
Kosykh answered with more malice than 

A Russified German, a seller of false eyes, 
had been moved by patriotic feelings to supply 
the army with his products free of charge. The 
day before, Vrublevsky had been fitted out 
with a glass eye made so skilfully that it looked 
just as blue and handsome as the real one. The 
work was so perfect that even close examina- 
tion could not distinguish the imitation from 
the genuine. Vrublevsky had been laughing 
and happy as a child over it. 

"I'll go home," he said in his broad Volga 
accent, "and catch any girl I like. I'll get 
married, then I'll confess that my eye's a glass 


"He will, too, the devil!" chuckled Burdin. 

And now an accident had happened and the 
handsome young man would return to his vil- 
lage a one-eyed cripple. 

"They'll give you a new one, don't howl/', 
Grigory consoled him. 

Vrublevsky raised his tear-stained face from 
the pillow, revealing the empty socket. 

"No, they won't. That eye cost three hundred 
rubles. They'll never give me a new one." 

"And what an eye it was! Every little line 
was there!" Kosykh gloated. 

After breakfast Vrublevsky went off with 
the nurse to the German's shop and the Ger- 
man gave him a new eye, 

"Why, the Germans are better than the 
Russians!" Vrublevsky exclaimed, wild with 
joy. "A Russian merchant wouldn't give you 
a kopeck, but this one gives me a new eye 
without a murmur." 

September passed. The days dragged by in- 
terminably, filled with deadly boredom. In 
the morning at nine o'clock the patients were 
served tea-two miserable, transparent slices 
of French bread, and a knob of butter the size 
of a finger-nail. After dinner they were still 
hungry. In the evening they had tea again, 
sipping cold water with it to break the 
monotony. The patients in the military ward 


changed. First the Siberian went, then the 
Latvian. At the end of October Grigory was 

The hospital surgeon examined Grigory's 
eyes and pronounced their sight satisfactory. 
But he was transferred to another hospital, as 
the wound in his head had unexpectedly opened 
and was suppurating slightly. As he said good- 
bye to Garanzha, Grigory remarked; 

"Shall we be meeting again?" 

"Two mountains never meet, but. . . ." 

"Well, khokhol, thank you for opening 
my eyes. I can see now, and I'm not good to 

"When you get back to your regiment tell 
the Cossacks what I've told you." 

"I will." 

"And if you ever happen to be in Chernigov 
District, in Gorokhovka, ask for the smith 
Andrei Garanzha, I'll be glad to see you. So 
long, boy." 

They embraced. The picture of the Ukrainian, 
with his one eye, and pleasant lines running 
from his mouth across his sandy cheeks, re- 
mained long in Grigory's memory. 

Grigory spent ten days in the second 
hospital. He nursed unformulated decisions in 
his mind. The jaundice of Garanzha's teaching 
was working within him. He talked but little 


with his neighbours in the ward, and a certain 
confusion and alarm was manifest in all his 

"A restless fellow," was the appraisal the 
head doctor gave him, glancing hurriedly at 
his non-Russian face during the first examina- 

For the first few days Grigory was feverish, 
and lay in his bed listening to the ringing in 
his ears. 

Then an incident occurred. 

A high personage, one of the imperial family, 
came to pay a visit to the hospital. Informed 
of this in the morning, the staff of the hospital 
scurried about like mice in a burning granary. 
They redressed the wounded, changed the bed- 
clothes before the time appointed, and one 
young doctor even tried to instruct the men 
how to reply to the personage and how to 
conduct themselves in conversation with him. 
The anxiety was communicated to the patients 
also, and some of them began to talk in 
whispers long before the time fixed for the 
visit. At noon a motor horn sounded at the 
front door, and accompanied by the usual 
number of officials and officers, the personage 
passed through the hospital portals. 

One of the wounded, a gay fellow and a 
joker, assured his fellow patients afterwards 

63 1 

that at the moment of the distinguished 
visitors' entry the Red Cross flag hanging 
outside the hospital suddenly began to flutter 
furiously, although the weather was unusually 
fine and still, while on the other side of the 
street the dandy with elegant curls portrayed 
on a hairdresser's signboard actually made a 
low bow. 

The distinguished personage went the round 
of the wards, asking the usual absurd ques- 
tions befitting one of his position and circum- 
stances. The wounded, their eyes staring out of 
their heads, replied in accordance with the in- 
structions of the junior surgeon. "Just so. Your 
Imperial Highness," and "Not at all. Your 
Imperial Highness." The chief surgeon supplied 
commentaries to their answers, squirming like 
a grass-snake pierced by a fork; he was a 
pitiful sight even from afar. The regal per- 
sonage distributed little icons to the soldiers. 
The throng of brilliant uniforms and the heavy 
wave of expensive perfumes rolled towards 
Grigory. He stood by his bed, unshaven, gaunt, 
with feverish eyes. The slight tremor of the 
brown skin over his angular cheek-bones re- 
vealed his agitation. 

"There they are!" he was thinking. "There 
are the people who get pleasure out of driv- 
ing us from our native villages and flinging us 


to death. Ah! The swine! Curse them! There 
are the lice on our backs. Was it for them we 
trampled other people's grain with our horses 
and killed strangers? And I crawled over the 
stubble and shouted? And our fear? They 
dragged us away from our families, starved us 
in barracks." The burning thoughts choked his 
brain. His lips quivered with fury. "Look at 
their fat shining faces! I'd send you out there, 
curse you. Put you on a horse, with a rifle on 
your back, load you with lice, feed you on 
rotten bread and maggoty meat!" 

Grigory's eyes bored into the sleek-faced 
officers of the retinue, and rested on the 
marsupial cheeks of the royal personage. 

"A Don Cossack, Cross of St. George," the 
chief surgeon smirked as he pointed to Grigory, 
and from the tone of his voice one would 
have thought it was he who had won the 

"From what district?" the personage in- 
quired, holding an icon ready, 

"Vyeshenskaya, Your Imperial Highness." 

"How did you win the cross?" 

Boredom and satiety lurked in the clear, 
empty eyes of the royal personage. His left 
eyebrow was artificially raised, in a manner 
intended to give his face greater expression. 
For a moment Grigory felt cold, and a queer 

41—1933 633 

chopping sensation went on inside him. He had 
felt a similar sensation when going into attack. 
His lips twisted and quivered irresistibly. 

"Excuse me. ... I badly want to. . , . Your 
Imperial. . . . Just a little need." Grigory swayed 
as though his back were broken, and pointed 
under the bed. 

The personage's left eyebrow rose still 
higher. The hand holding the icon half-extend- 
ed towards Grigory froze stiffly. His flabby 
lips gaping with astonishment, the personage 
turned to a grey-haired general at his side and 
asked him something in English. A hardly 
perceptible embarrassment troubled the mem- 
bers of his suite. A tall officer with epaulettes 
touched his eye with his white gloved hand; 
a second bowed his head; a third glanced in- 
quiringly at his neighbour. The grey-haired 
general smiled respectfully and replied in 
English to His Imperial Highness, and His 
Highness was pleased to thrust the icon 
into Grigory's hand, and even to bestow 
on him the highest of honours, a touch on the 

After the guests had departed Grigory 
dropped on to his bed and, burying his face in 
his pillow, lay for some minutes, his shoulders 
shaking. It was impossible to tell whether he 
was crying or laughing. Certain it is that he 


rose with dry eyes. He was immediately 
summoned to the room of the chief surgeon. 

"You common lout!" the doctor began, 
crushing his mousy-coloured beard in his 

"I'm not a lout, you snake!" Grigory replied, 
striding towards the doctor. "I never saw you 
at the front." Then, recovering his self-control, 
he said quietly: "Send me home." 

The doctor retreated behind his writing 
table, saying more gently: "We'll send you! 
You can go to the devil!" 

Grigory went out, his lips trembling with a 
smile, his eyes glaring. For his monstrous, un- 
pardonable behaviour in the presence of the 
royal personage he was deprived of his food 
for three days. But his comrades in the ward, 
and the cook, a soft-hearted man who suffered 
from rupture, kept him supplied, 


It was evening of November the fourth when 
Grigory on his way from the station arrived at 
the first village in his own district. Yagodnoye 
was only a few versts distant. As he passed 
down the street children were singing a Cos- 
sack song under the river willows: 

With shining swords the Cossacks ride. . . . 

41* 635 

As he listened to the familiar words a chill 
gripped his heart and hardened his eyes. 
Avidly sniffing in the scent of the smoke com- 
ing from the chimneys, he strode through the 
village, the song following him. 

"And I used to sing that song, but now my 
voice is gone and life has broken off the song. 
Here am I going to stay with another man's 
wife, no comer of my own, no home, like a 
wolf," he thought, walking along at a steady, 
tired pace, and bitterly smiling at his own 
queerly twisted life. He climbed out of the 
village, and at the top of the hill turned to 
look back. The yellow light of a hanging-lamp 
shone through the window of the last house, 
and in its light he saw an elderly woman sitting 
at a spinning-wheel. 

He went on, walking through the damp, 
frosty grass at the side of the road. He spent 
the night in a little village, and set out again 
as soon as day was dawning. He reached 
Yagodnoye in the evening. Jumping across the 
fence, he went past the stables. The sound of 
Sashka's coughing arrested him. 

"Grandad Sashka, you asleep?" he shouted. 

"Wait, who is that? I know the voice. Who 
is it?" 

Sashka came out, throwing his old coat 
around his shoulders. "Holy fathers. . . ! 


Grisha! Where the devil have you come 

They embraced. Gazing up into Grigory's 
face, Sashka said: "Come in and have a 

"No, not now. I will tomorrow. I. . . /' 

"Come in, I tell you." 

Grigory unwillingly followed him in, and 
sat down on the wooden bunk while the old 
man recovered from a fit of coughing. 

"Well, Grandad, so you're still alive. Still 
walking the earth?" 

"Ah, I'm like a flint. There'll be no wear 
with me." 

"And how's Aksinya?" 

"Aksinya? Praise be, she's all right." 

The old man coughed violently. Grigory 
guessed it was a pretence to hide his embarrass- 

"Where did you bury Tanya?" 

"In the orchard under a poplar." 

"Well, tell me all the news." 

"My cough's been troubling me a lot, 


"We're all alive and well. The master drinks 
beyond all sense, the fool." 

"How's Aksinya?" 


"She's a housemaid now. You might have a 
smoke. Try my tobacco, it's first-rate," 

"I don't want to smoke. Talk, or I'm leaving! 
I feel. . . ." Grigory turned heavily, and the 
wooden bunk creaked under him. "I feel you're 
keeping something from me, like a stone under 
your coat. Strike!" 

"And I will strike! I can't keep silent, Grisha, 
and silence would be shameful." 

"Tell me, then," Grigory said, letting his 
hand drop caressingly on the old man's shoul- 
der. He waited, bowing his back. 

"You've been nursing a snake," Sashka 
suddenly exclaimed in a harsh, shrill voice. 
"You've been feeding a serpent. She's been 
playing about with Yevgeny." 

A stream of sticky spittle ran down over the 
old man's scarred chin. He wiped it away and 
dried his hand on his trousers. 

"Are you telling the truth?" 

"I've seen them with my own eyes. Every 
night he goes to her, I expect he's with her 

"So that's how it is!" Grigory cracked his 
knuckles and sat with hunched shoulders for 
a long time, the muscles of his face working. 
There was a great vibrant ringing in his 

"A woman's like a cat," Sashka said. "She 


makes up to anyone who strokes her. Don't 
you trust them, don't give them your trust." 

He rolled a cigarette and thrust it into 
Grigory's hand. "Smoke!" 

Grigory took a couple of pulls at the 
cigarette, then stubbed it out with his fingers. 
He went out without a word. He stopped by 
the window of the servants' quarters, panting 
heavily, and raised his hand several times to 
knock. But each time his hand fell as though 
struck away. When at last he did knock he 
tapped at first with his finger; but then, losing 
patience, he threw himself against the wall 
and beat at the window furiously with his fist. 
The frame rang with the blows, and the blue, 
nocturnal light shimmered on the pane. 

Aksinya's frightened face appeared at the 
window for an instant, then she opened the 
door and gave a little scream. He embraced 
her, peering into her eyes. 

"You knocked so hard you terrified me. I 
wasn't expecting you. My dear. . . ." 

"I'm frozen." 

Aksinya felt his big body shivering violently 
although his hands were feverishly hot. She 
fussed about unnecessarily, lighted the lamp 
and ran about the room, a downy shawl around 
her plump, white shoulders. Finally she lit a 
fire in the stove. 


"I wasn't expecting you. It's so long since 
you wrote. I thought you'd never come. Did 
you get my last letter? I was going to send you 
a parcel, but then I thought I'd wait to see if 
I received a letter. . . ." 

She cast sidelong glances at Grigory, her 
red lips frozen in a smile. 

Grigory sat down on the bench without tak- 
ing off his greatcoat. His unshaven cheeks 
burned, and his lowered eyes were heavily 
shadowed by the cowl of his coat. He began 
to unfasten the cowl, but suddenly turned to 
fidget with his tobacco pouch, and searched 
his pockets for paper. With measureless yearn- 
ing he ran his eyes over Aksinya's face. 

She had devilishly improved during his 
absence, he thought. Her beautiful head was 
carried with a new, authoritative poise, and 
only her eyes and the large, fluffy ringlets of 
her hair were the same. But her destructive, 
fiery beauty did not belong to him. How could 
it, when she was the mistress of the master's 

"You don't look like a housemaid, you're 
more like a housekeeper." 

She gave him a startled look, and laughed 

Dragging his pack behind him, Grigory went 
towards the door. 


"Where are you going?" 

"To have a smoke." 

"I've fried you some eggs." 

"I won't be long." 

On the steps Grigory opened his pack, and 
from the bottom drew out a hand-painted 
kerchief carefully wrapped in a clean shirt. He 
had bought it from a Jewish trader in Zhitomir 
for two rubles and had guarded it as the apple 
of his eye, occasionally pulling it out and 
enjoying its wealth of rainbow colours, foretast- 
ing the rapture with which Aksinya would be 
possessed when he should spread it open before 
her. A miserable gift! Could he compete in 
presents with the son of a rich landowner? 
Choking down a spasm of dry sobbing, he 
tore the kerchief into little pieces and pushed 
them under the step. He threw the pack on to 
the bench in the passage and went back to the 

"Sit down and I'll pull your boots off, 

With white hands long divorced from hard 
work she struggled with Grigory's heavy army 
boots. Falling at his knees, she wept long and 
silently. Grigory let her weep to her heart's 
content, then asked: 

"What's the matter? Aren't you glad to see 


In bed, he quickly fell asleep. Aksinya went 
out to the steps in only her shift. She stood 
there in the cold, piercing wind, with her arms 
round the damp pillar, listening to the funeral 
dirge of the northern blast, and did not change 
her position until dawn came. 

In the morning Grigory threw his greatcoat 
across his shoulders and went to the house. 
The old master was standing on the steps, 
dressed in a fur jacket and a yellow Astrakhan 

"Why, there he is, the Cavalier of St. George! 
But you're a man, my friend!" He saluted 
Grigory and stretched out his hand. 

"Staying long?" 

"Two weeks. Your Excellency," 

"We buried your daughter. A pity ... a 
pity " 

Grigory was silent. Yevgeny came on to the 
steps, drawing on his gloves. 

"Why, it's Grigory. Where have you arrived 

Grigory's eyes darkened, but he smiled, 

"Back on leave, from Moscow." 

"You were wounded in the eye, weren't you? 
I heard about it. What a fine lad he's grown, 
hasn't he. Papa?" 

He nodded to Grigory and turned towards 
the stables, calling to the coachman: 


"The horse, Nikitich!" 

With a dignified air Nikitich finished harness- 
ing the horse and, giving Grigory an un- 
friendly look, led the old grey trotting horse 
to the steps. The frost-bound earth rustled 
under the wheels of the light droshki. 

"Your Honour, let me drive you for the 
sake of old times," Grigory turned to Yevgeny 
with an ingratiating smile. 

"The poor chap doesn't guess," Yevgeny 
thought, smiling with satisfaction, and his eyes 
glittered behind his pince-nez. 

"All right, jump up." 

"What, hardly arrived and you're already 
leaving your young wife? Didn't you miss 
her?" Old Listnitsky smiled benevolently. 

Grigory laughed, "A wife isn't a bear. She 
won't run off into the forest." 

He mounted the driver's seat, thrust the 
knout under it and gathered up the reins. 

"Ah, I'll give you a drive, Yevgeny 

"Drive well and I'll stand you a tip." 

"Haven't I already got enough to be thank- 
ful for. . . , I'm grateful to you for feeding . . . 
my Aksinya . . . for giving her ... a piece. . . ." 

Grigory's voice suddenly broke, and a 
vague, unpleasant suspicion troubled the 
lieutenant. "Surely he doesn't know? Of course 


not! How could he?" He leaned back in his 
seat and lit a cigarette. 

"Don't be long," old Listnitsky called after 

Needle-sharp snow dust flew from under the 

Grigory pulled with the reins at the horse's 
mouth and urged it to its topmost speed. Within 
fifteen minutes they had crossed the rise, and 
the house was out of sight. In the very first 
dell they came to, Grigory jumped down and 
pulled the knout from under the seat. 

"What's the matter?" the lieutenant frowned. 

"I'll show you!" 

Grigory swung the knout and brought it 
down with terrible force across the lieutenant's 
face. Then, seizing it by the lash, he beat the 
officer with the butt on the face and arms, 
giving him no time to get up. A fragment of 
the glass from his pince-nez cut Listnitsky 
above the brow, and a little stream of blood 
flowed into his eyes. At first he covered his face 
with his hands, but the blows grew more 
frequent. He jumped up, his face disfigured 
with blood and fury, and attempted to defend 
himself; but Grigory fell back and paralyzed 
his arm with a blow on the wrist. 

"That's for Aksinya! That's for me! For 
Aksinya! Another for Aksinya! For me!" 


The knout whistled, the blows slapped 
softly. At last Grigory threw Yevgeny down on 
the hard ruts of the road and rolled him on the 
ground, kicking him savagely with the iron- 
shod heels of his boots. When he had no 
strength to do more he got on to the drozhki 
seat, and sawing at the horse's mouth, galloped 
it back. He left the droshki by the gate, and, 
seizing the knout, stumbling over the flaps of 
his open greatcoat, he rushed into the servants' 

As the door crashed open, Aksinya glanced 

"You snake! You bitch!" The knout whistled 
and curled around her face. 

Gasping for breath, Grigory ran into the 
yard, and heedless of Sashka's questionings, 
left the estate. When he had covered a verst he 
was overtaken by Aksinya. Panting violently, 
she walked along silently at his side, occasion- 
ally pulling at his sleeve. At a fork in the road, 
by a brown wayside cross, she said in a 
strange, distant voice: 

"Grisha, forgive me!" 

He bared his teeth, and hunching his shoul- 
ders, turned up the collar of his greatcoat. 
Aksinya was left standing by the cross. He 
did not look back once, and did not see her 
hand stretched out to him, 


At the crest of the hill above Tatarsky he 
noticed in astonishment that he was still carry- 
ing the knout; he threw it away, then strode 
down into the village. Faces were pressed 
against the windows, amazed to see him, 
and the 'women he met bowed low as ,he 

At the gate of his own yard a slim, black- 
eyed beauty ran to meet him, flung her arms 
around his neck and buried her face on his 
breast. Pressing her cheeks with his hands, he 
raised her head and recognized Dunya. 

Pantelei Prokofyevich limped down the 
steps, and Grigory heard his mother start 
weeping aloud in the house. With his left hand 
he embraced his father; Dunya was kissing 
his right hand. 

The almost painfully familiar creak of the 
steps, and Grigory was in the porch. His 
ageing mother ran to him light-footed as a girl, 
wetted the lapels of his greatcoat with her 
tears, and embraced her son closely, muttering 
something disconnected in her own mother- 
language that could not be put into words; 
while by the door, clinging to it to save herself 
from falling, stood Natalya, a tortured smile 
on her pale face. Cut down by Grigory's 
hurried, distracted glance, she dropped to the 


That night in bed, Pantelei gave his wife a 
dig in the ribs and whispered: 

"Go quietly and see whether they're lying 
together or not." 

"I made up their bed on the bedstead." 

"But go on and look, look!" 

Ilyinichna got up and peeped through a crack 
in the door leading to the best room. 

"They're together." 

"Well, God be praised! God be praised!" the 
old man whimpered, raising himself on his 
elbow and crossing himself. 



AA 001 245 695 o